Italy rejected on Friday Egypt’s claim that it had identified the killers of an Italian graduate student whose tortured body was recovered last month, and Rome vowed to press on with its own murder investigation. Egyptian authorities said a criminal gang that had been killed in a shootout was in possession of Giulio Regeni’s bag and passport.  Italian investigators said Friday there was “no definitive element confirming” the claim, and pointed to “inconsistencies” in the latest information in the case provided by Egypt. They said it was unlikely that Regeni’s kidnappers would hold on to “compromising evidence” months after his death. Italy’s Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, meanwhile, said Sunday that Egyptian investigators agreed to extend the investigation after pressure from Rome. Egypt’s Interior Ministry denied the Italian government’s statements, saying that its original claims had been misrepresented in the media. On Saturday, Interior Ministry Spokesperson, Abu Bakr Abdel Karim said the discovery of Regeni’s belongings in the apartment of a gang member did not mean the gang was responsible for his abduction and murder. Abdel Karim said the ministry had never attributed the crime to the gang members, despite media claims to the contrary. According to Ahram Online, however, Cairo prosecution ordered Friday the detention for four days pending investigations of three family members related to one of the alleged gang members linked to Regeni’s murder.  Interior Minister Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar also said Sunday that the case has become “very difficult” because of the “hostile campaigns” that consistently raise doubts about the Egyptian interior ministry’s efforts in its handling.  [Ahram Online, Reuters, DNE, Mada Masr, AMAY, 3/28/2016]


Egypt government presents program to parliament
The Egyptian parliament heard the government’s program on Sunday, just days after a cabinet reshuffle brought in 10 new ministers. In a 205-page ‎policy statement before parliament, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail laid out the main goals of the government, touching on the themes of national security, democracy and social justice, the economy, public services, administrative reform, and development. Ismail addressed the challenges Egypt faces and said that the problems may be big but the government is working on solving them. The proposal lays out the government’s plan of action from now until June 2018. The plan is meant to be aligned with Egypt’s sustainable development plan agenda, running until 2030. Ismail said the government is faced with “difficult decisions” in implementing a plan that he qualified as “ambitious” numerous times in his speech. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called on the parliament Sunday to vote to renew confidence in the cabinet he appointed. According to the constitution, the policy statement must be debated by parliament within 30 days before being put to a confidence vote. Prior to the speech, parliamentary members expressed their numerous expectations from the government’s program, including a clear project with a specific timeline for the remainder of Sisi’s term, set to end in June 2018.  [Ahram Online, DNE, AMAY, SIS, Aswat Masriya, 3/27/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Experiences of state bureaucracy compel Egypt MP to tender resignation | Ahram Online
  • Sisi to pardon prisoners on Sinai Liberation Day | Ahram Online
  • Environment Minister to cooperate with parliament to ratify amended environmental law | DNE


Sentence of Egyptian officer convicted of Sayed Bilal torture reduced to three years
An Alexandria court sentenced on Sunday a police officer to three years in prison for torturing Salafist Sayed Belal to death. The ruling marks a significant reduction in the convicted officer’s previous prison sentence. He had previously been convicted in absentia in this case and was handed a life sentence, but was automatically granted a retrial upon turning himself in. While maximum sentences are common in verdicts delivered in absentia, the first retrial resulted in the 15-year sentence, which he successfully appealed. The most recent verdict may also be appealed in front of Egypt’s Court of Cassation. Kounayassi has been out of prison since May 2015, when he was released after spending the maximum allowed time in detention while his second retrial was still ongoing. All other defendants in the case were acquitted. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 3/28/2016]

Courts sentence Egyptians for joining ISIS, Jund al-Sham
The Cairo Criminal Court sentenced a man to 15 years in prison on Saturday for joining Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL). Prosecutors said that between June 30, 2013 and November 23, 2013, Ahmed Fawzy joined a “terrorist group” outside Egypt named “Lions of the Caliphate,” which allegedly follows ISIS, and received military training. The same court sentenced Mohamed Samir to life imprisonment in absentia on Saturday, on charges of joining the Syrian rebel militant group Jund al-Sham. Another defendant, named Ahmed Abdel al-Wahab, received a ten-year prison sentence. The two defendants were charged with joining the group in 2013 and planning “terrorist attacks.” [Aswat Masriya, DNE, 3/26/2016]

Egyptian MP Haitham al-Hariri acquitted of protest charges
Alexandria Criminal Court acquitted MP Haitham al-Hariri on Saturday of violence-related charges dating back to 2013. Hariri was originally sentenced in absentia to three years in prison but requested a retrial last year after he applied to be a candidate in Egypt’s House of Representatives elections. He was accused of participating in a demonstration with the aim of disturbing public peace in June 2013 when clashes broke out between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and members of Tamarod movement in Alexandria. The acquittal can be appealed by the prosecution within 60 days. If by that time no appeal is presented, the decision is considered final. The MP reiterated he will push for a change of the protest law, which prohibits demonstrations without government approval. “We will submit recommendations by the National Council for Human Rights on the protest law and the terrorism law,” Hariri told Ahram Online. He said the 25/30 Coalition and the Social Justice Coalition, two independent opposition coalitions, will submit these recommendations after the parliament’s special committees are formed, though he questioned whether parliament would approve the measures. [Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, 3/27/2016]

Requests for Youssef Shaaban, Loay al-Khawagi, Shawkan releases rejected
Cairo Criminal Court adjourned to April 23 the trial of photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid, better known as Shawkan, and 738 others to April 23 on Saturday. Defendants in the case have now been in pretrial detention for over 950 days. Judge Hassan Farid, presiding over the case, rejected a request to release Shawkan from prison pending trial. Alexandria Misdemeanor Court also rejected an appeal to release journalist Youssef Shaaban and political activist Loay al-Kahwagi. The pair are in prison on charges relating to a 2013 sit-in at the Raml Police Station in Alexandria. The sit-in was staged in protest of the injury of a lawyer at the hands of police personnel. They were arrested and accused of attempting to break into the police station. Journalist and researcher Ismail Alexandrani’s detention was also renewed for the ninth time on Sunday by the National Security Prosecution. [DNE, Mada Masr, 3/27/2016]

Court rejects lawsuit to shut down Rassd News Network; Rassd journalist release
The State Council rejected a case filed by lawyer Samir Sabry demanding the closure of Rassd News Network (RNN) on Sunday. In September, the State Commissioners Authority issued a report that recommends rejecting the case, with reference to the 2014 constitution which ensures freedom of expression. Sabry demanded in his lawsuit that the Minister of Interior shut down RNN for its involvement in attacks against the state and for taking part in an international conspiracy against Egypt. He had also accused Amr Farrag, the chief editor of RNN, of solely publishing false news that aims to cause strife between Egyptians and political leaders. Egypt’s criminal court meanwhile released on Monday RNN journalist, Alyaa Awad, accused of shooting a video showing masked men identifying themselves as the Helwan Brigades vowing to target police facilities in southern Cairo. [DNE, 3/28/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Egyptian court upholds eight-year sentence for Islamist Magdi Hussein | Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya
  • Court rules to disband football association, Ahly club boards | AMAY


Egypt launches program to increase growth, bring in aid, investment
Egypt unveiled a long-awaited economic program on Sunday that aims to reduce the budget deficit, protect the poor, and increase foreign aid and investment. Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said the government would target 5-6 percent economic growth and a budget deficit below 10 percent by the end of fiscal year 2017/18. The plan also calls for the adoption of a value-added tax and the sale of stakes in government companies. Ismail said the government would also push ahead with reforms to Egypt’s subsidies program, but did not provide specific details. “It is up to us to take several hard decisions that have long been delayed, (but) any economic steps will be accompanied by the requisite social protections,” Ismail said. “The ‎status quo is indefensible and we cannot go back to previous conditions. We all have to ‎live up to the expectations of all Egyptians,” he said. [Reuters, Bloomberg, Ahram Online, Aswat Mariya, 3/27/2016]

Egypt attracts foreign investment after pound devaluation
Governor of the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) Tarek Amer said Saturday that Egypt attracted foreign investment worth $500 million in treasury bills after devaluing the pound. Amer also said that the CBE pumped $22 billion into the banking system to clear goods piled at ports. “There is no currency crisis, there is merely a crisis in managing the foreign exchange market, and we will roll out an alternative plan for managing the market in the next three months,” Amer said. Regarding the devaluation of the pound, he said, “The decision wasn’t a devaluation, it was correcting the situation and we had planned for it in advance.” Amer said he expects at least $5 billion in portfolio investments within the next four months. Foreign direct investment from China alone could reach $30 billion in the next two years, he added. Amer also announced that Egypt will pay back $1.8 billion owed to Qatar and the Paris Club nations in July. [Reuters, Bloomberg, 3/26/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt’s 5-year bond yield jumps in Monday’s auction | Reuters
  • Egyptian pound weakens to record against the dollar on black market | Reuters
  • Egypt’s Banque Misr in talks for 300 million Euro syndicated loan | Reuters
  • Egypt to float stakes in two state-owned banks, sell United Bank stake this year | Ahram Online


NGOs, academics express solidarity with Nazra
Fifteen Egyptian women’s and rights organizations published a statement Saturday in solidarity with Nazra for Feminist Studies and demanded that the National Council for Human Rights (NHCR) stand against the recent crackdown on local NGOs. The statement also highlighted the need for dialogue between NGOs and the state to address women’s issues. The signatories included the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and El Nadeem. Meanwhile, 125 academics expressed their support for Nazra head Mozn Hassan in a letter after she was summoned for investigation and charged in the reopening of the 2011 NGO foreign funding case. The majority of the academic signatories are professors at the American University in Cairo (AUC) and others include professors and researchers working at universities abroad. [DNE, 3/28/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Intelligence services promise medical and food supplies for Minya, Assiut | Mada Masr


ISIS claims it killed 15 soldiers in Sinai; Armed Forces kills 60 militants
Aamaq, a news agency affiliated with the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) claimed that its Egypt affiliate, the Sinai State, killed 15 Egyptian soldiers by planting explosive devices on roads situated in Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah.  The agency reported early Sunday that Sinai State militants intercepted a counter-attack by the Egyptian Armed Forces and captured two tanks. The reports could not be independently verified. This comes as clashes between the Egyptian Armed Forces and Sinai State are on the rise in North Sinai.  Armed Forces Spokesman Mohamed Samir said in a statement Friday that military forces in Sinai killed 60 militants and injured another 40 in clashes in Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah. He added that 27 4×4 trucks and 32 weapons depots were destroyed. [DNE, Ahram Online, AP, Aswat Masriya, 3/27/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Police capture notorious drug lord in Qaliubiya | DNE
  • Governor says displacing North Sinai residents ‘not an option’ | Ahram Online
  • Twenty arrested while attempting to migrate to Italy | DNE
  • Egyptian army ranks 18th on Global Power Fire list | AMAY
  • Bomb dismantled in Arish | AMAY
    Suspect detained over antiquities trafficking dies in custody | AMAY
  • Egypt to provide military training for 1,000 CEN-SAD military cadres | DNE


Hamas delegation returns to Cairo for more talks with Egypt
A Hamas delegation returned to Cairo from Doha on Sunday to resume discussions with Egyptian officials in the second leg of talks on the future of the Islamist movement’s relationship with Egypt. Hamas is expected to respond on Sunday to Egyptian requests made in earlier talks. Prior to the delegation’s arrival in Cairo, a member of the Hamas politburo, Mahmoud al-Zahar, said the movement is going to treat the Egyptian demands “positively.” Egypt has stipulated several demands to improve its relations with Hamas, according to Asharq al-Awsat, including a pledge of non-interference by Hamas in Egyptian affairs; cooperation with Cairo on investigations over issues that affect Egyptian security; and stopping extremists and hostile parties from entering or leaving the Strip from Sinai. The demands also include severing Hamas’ ties with the banned Muslim Brotherhood and the prevention of cross-border smuggling activity. Hamas will present its requests to the Egyptian side during the visit, including the opening of the Rafah border crossing; a halt of media campaigns against the movement, an end to the Egyptian flooding of cross-border tunnels; and the return of four Hamas members who “disappeared” last year in Sinai. Hamas also wants more trade between the two sides; the resumption of Egyptian efforts in mediating the mutual observation of a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel; and the continuation of Cairo’s role in mediating between Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, and Israel. [Ahram Online, 3/27/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt’s Grand Mufti condemns Iraq bombing | Ahram Online
  • Egypt’s military chief of staff heads to Saudi Arabia | Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya
  • Sisi meets with Chinese vice premier to discuss education | DNE
  • Kerry phones Shoukry about Syria, Libya and bilateral relations | DNE
  • Five agreements on education to be signed with China | AMAY
  • Russian official: Moscow hopes to resume flights to Egypt by beginning of summer | DNE
  • Egypt calls for “serious action” on Palestinian issue | Aswat Masriya