Top News: Islamic State’s Egypt Affiliate Urges Attacks on Judges

Islamic State’s Egypt affiliate on Wednesday urged followers to attack judges, declaring a new front in an Islamist militant insurgency in the world’s most populous Arab state. The leader of the group Sinai State, formerly known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, called for violence against judges in an audio statement posted on a prominent jihadist website. Reuters could not confirm the authenticity of the recording. A spate of attacks on judges suggests they are the latest targets of an insurgency centered in North Sinai that has killed hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and police in the past two years. “It is wrong for the tyrants to jail our brothers,” cleric Abu Osama al-Masry said, referring to judges. “Poison their food… surveil them at home and in the street… destroy their homes with explosives if you can.” [Reuters, 5/202/2015]


Mixed reactions on Egypt’s new Justice Minister
The selection of Ahmed al-Zend as Justice Minister on Wednesday has been met with mixed reactions from Egypt’s political parties.  The selection of the former Judges Club chief stirred criticisms from many activists opposed to the current government. While some politicians held the selection a victory for the June 2013 uprising that ousted the Muslim Brotherhood’s government, citing Zend’s opposing stances against the Islamists, others blamed the judge for implicating the judiciary in political strife. Abdel Ghaffar Shokr, chairman of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, said Zend had engaged in conflicts before and after the 2011 and 2013 uprisings which, he said, negatively affected the judiciary. The Popular Current, founded by former presidential runner Hamdeen Sabbahi, said Wednesday that the selection of Zend conforms with the ruling regime’s interests. Ahmed Fawzy, the Secretary General of the Social Democratic Party said, “There is no parliament, no one is holding ministers accountable, the [public] is not counseled on any decision.” He added, “We do not even know on which criteria [Zend] was chosen and what is his proposed program for the ministry, to be able to ask him about it.” Shehab Wagih, spokesperson of the Free Egyptians Party, said President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his government are responsible for their selections, noting that the government seeks a “harmonious team,” and wished the new minister luck with his duties. The head of the Long Live Egypt Coalition, Tarek Mahmoud, expressed support for the new appointment saying that the decision was made to combat the Muslim Brotherhood. Mahmoud added that criticisms of Zend will not change the decision or stop him from performing his duties as the new Minister of Justice.  Yehia Qadri, deputy head of the Egyptian National Movement Party founded by Mubarak-era prime minister and former presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq said he believes Zend’s selection for the post is the right one. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, EGYNews (Arabic), 5/21/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt’s Copts praise Sisi but await more tangible support | Reuters
  • Egypt president pays condolences to slain judges’ families | Ahram Online
  • Sisi issues decree for reconstruction of Islamic Art Museum | Aswat Masriya (Arabic)


Egypt’s court orders ban on porn websites
Egypt’s Administrative Court ordered Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab to take the necessary measures to ban pornography websites inside the country, on Wednesday. The court’s latest decision is immediately enforceable, but can still be appealed at the Supreme Administrative Court. In the case, lawyer Nezar Gharab argued that the websites caused “immorality” to spread, affecting youth and children. “Islamic sharia law and all heavenly religions came to elevate human beings to a desired level of dignity,” he said. Gharab added that Egypt’s lack of laws to criminalize such websites so far had had a negative impact. This is the court’s second verdict in the case, as it issues verdicts in urgent cases in two phases: an urgent verdict, followed by a substantive verdict. The first urgent verdict was issued in 2009 in the same case, and also ordered the censorship of pornography websites. This first verdict should theoretically have been applied immediately, but never was.  [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 5/201/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Forty-eight alleged Brotherhood members sentenced to ten years prison | Egypt Independent 
  • Seventy-five referred to military court on charges of burning churches in Minya | EGYNews (Arabic)
  • Belly dancer acquitted of offending Mortada Mansour | Ahram Online, Egypt Independent
  • Morsi’s Qatar espionage case postponed to May 24 | DNE, EGYNews (Arabic)
  • Student arrests during exams on the rise says SAC | DNE
  • Trial of four policemen in Abu Zaabal case postponed to May 27 | Aswat Masriya (Arabic)
  • Trial of Badie and 104 others on Ismailia charges postponed to June 14 | EGYNews (Arabic)


Egypt permits private sector to import natural gas
Egypt has given the private sector a green light to import natural gas or liquefied natural gas (LNG), a step that could encourage private investment in the energy sector while easing energy shortages. Egypt has tried to address energy shortages by signing LNG import deals this year, but allowing the private sector to import gas could further boost supplies of gas used to power most Egyptian homes and factories. The chairman of state gas board Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS) said officials had decided to allow private companies to import gas through state infrastructure. In exchange, the state will get a tariff for transferring the gas through its infrastructure. [Reuters, 5/21/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt’s trade deficit rises to 21 billion pounds in February | Aswat Masriya
  • 41.4 percent decrease in foreigners working in Egypt’s government sector | DNE
  • UNDP provides Egypt with 2.6 million euros to clear World War II landmines | DNE
  • BG Group negotiates on Israel-Egypt Subsea Gas Pipeline | Egypt Independent
  • Fuel smart cards to be distributed Monday | Egypt Independent
  • Egypt’s Suez Canal revenues reach $442.2 billion in April Y-O-Y | Egypt Independent
  • Contracts signed for two housing projects in 6 October, New Cairo | Cairo Post


Egypt’s journalists syndicate files complaint over editor’s detention
Egypt’s Journalists Syndicate on Thursday filed a complaint with the Prosecutor General over what they called the “illegal procedures” taken in the arrest of a journalist. Ibrahim Aref, editor-in-chief of online news site al-Bayan, was arrested on Monday over “publishing false news,” then released late on Tuesday on 10,000 Egyptian pounds bail. In a statement, the syndicate said that releasing journalists on bail is against the law, asserting that it is “illegal” to put journalists under preventative detention in publishing cases. It also said that the prosecutor should notify the syndicate when it arrests one of its members, which it claimed did not happen in Aref’s case. Another group of journalists filed a report on Wednesday to the Prosecutor General’s office demanding the release of detained journalist Youssef Shaaban for violence charges, whilst covering an incident. Shaaban was arrested while presenting himself at court for an appeal on a case in which he was sentenced to prison and was released on a bail pending trial. The report was signed by head of the Press Syndicate Yehia Qallash, of which Shaaban is a member. This comes at the same time media reports said Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat interfered to halt a two-year prison sentence on charges of slander for TV presenter Ahmed Moussa on grounds that the verdict was to be appealed. [Ahram Online, 5/21/2015]

Also of Interest


Eight suspected militants killed in Arish says military source

Clashes broke out between suspected militants and security forces in North Sinai’s al-Arish City late Wednesday, leaving eight suspected militants killed and three more injured, a military source said. The source told Aswat Masriya that the suspected militants belonged to the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis militant group, the Islamic State’s Egypt affiliate. He added that security forces also arrested sixteen suspects. [Aswat Masriya, 5/21/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Ain Shams University student found dead on Fifth Settlement road | DNE
  • Violence down from last week to current, rights coalition says | Egypt Independent
  • Bomb explodes at electricity pylon in Beheira | EGYNews (Arabic)


Shoukry discusses Sisi’s visit to Germany with German counterpart
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry discussed preparations for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s visit to Germany with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier in a telephone call earlier on Wednesday. The two ministers also discussed bilateral relations, according to Al-Ahram. Meanwhile, Sisi met Thursday afternoon with Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, who is currently on a multiple-day visit to the Egyptian capital to boost mutual ties, Egypt’s presidency said. Sisi and Kurz discussed developments in the Middle East, mainly the rise of militant terrorism, presidential spokesman Alaa Youssef said. Speaking at a press conference held in Cairo, Kurz said “The death penalty is an inhuman deterrent strongly rejected by not only the Austrian government but also by the European Union.” He added, “Dealing with terrorism issues is definitely an Egyptian internal affair. We support the punishment of terrorists but in the framework of fair trials.” [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 5/21/2015]

Experts testify in Congress subcommittee hearing on Egypt two years after Morsi
The government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is a better US ally compared to its predecessor dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, Eric Trager of the Washington Institute told a US Congress subcommittee hearing on the political situation in Egypt, two years after the ouster of Mohamed Morsi. Trager said that the United States should not ignite tensions with Egypt due to its importance as a strategic regional ally but neither should it tolerate the current government’s “repressiveness.” Samuel Tadros of the Hudson Institute spoke on the persecution of religious minorities and Nancy Okail, Executive Director of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Peace, spoke on the need for security sector reform and the support of civil society in Egypt. [Egypt Independent, 5/21/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Hamas member says group ready for talks with Egypt, unlike Cairo | Cairo Post
  • Did a DC-based think tank issue a report applauding Sisi’s war on terror? | Mada Masr
  • Egyptian sentenced to prison by Austrian court for joining jihadists | Reuters
  • Egypt to host second Africa Smart Grid Forum | Egypt Independent
  • Cairo to host third Arab’s chief of staff meeting | Cairo Post
  • 42,985 Egyptians returned from Libya since February | Cairo Post