Top News: Judicial Committee Freezes Assets of Four Rights Activists in 2011 NGO Case

A judicial committee overseeing a five-year-old investigation into illegal foreign funding allegations ordered on Thursday the freezing of assets of four Egyptian human rights activists and their families. Egypt’s state-news agency MENA reported on Thursday that Cairo Criminal Court will review the commission’s decision on Saturday. It added that Hossam Bahgat, Gamal Eid and two others who weren’t identified are being investigated for illegally receiving $1.5 million from foreign parties. The case dates back to December 2011, when 43 workers for foreign NGOs were charged with operating an organization and receiving funds from a foreign government without a license. In June 2013, all the defendants — including 17 US citizens, other foreigners and Egyptians — were sentenced from one to five years in prison, many of them in absentia. Eid and Bahgat said that they only found out about the judge’s decision from news reports. Judicial sources also told Al-Masry Al-Youm the measure will not be the last, adding that similar moves will be taken with others rights activists, but added that the measures were “precautionary” pending probes. [Ahram Online, AMAY, AP, Mada Masr, 3/18/2016]


Sources say Egypt cabinet reshuffle expected soon
Although Egypt’s Prime Minister Sherif Ismail has said recently that no cabinet reshuffle is expected at present, informed sources told Al-Ahram that Ismail is meeting with potential candidates for ministerial positions. The sources said that the reshuffle would take place before the government presents its program to the House of Representatives on March 27 as reshuffles should be approved by parliament after that date in accordance with the constitution. According to the sources, the upcoming reshuffle will include the ministers of finance, investment, irrigation, tourism, civil aviation, education, health, justice, and religious endowments. The current Health Minister, Ahmed Emad, is facing dismissal following an ongoing crisis with the Doctors Syndicate, which has threatened strikes in response to alleged police assaults on hospital physicians. The Minister of Irrigation and water resources, Hossam Moghazi, is also a candidate for dismissal in light of the current developments in relation to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Hisham Zaazou, the Minister of Tourism, may also be held accountable for the impact of the Russian plane crash in Sinai on the country’s already-fragile tourism figures. Zaazou is being criticized, sources say, for failing to present new ideas to turn the crisis around. The sources also said that two ministers with economy-related portfolios may lose their positions. Ashraf Salman, the Investment Minister, may be dismissed in light of a perceived failure to secure adequate foreign investments, while Ashraf al-Arabi of the Planning Ministry may be let go due to the unpopularity of the Civil Service Law. [Ahram Online, 3/18/2016]


Al-Qaeda chief’s brother released from Egypt jail
The brother of al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, under investigation for allegedly calling for the creation of a “terrorist group,” was released Thursday from an Egyptian prison, his son and security officials said. On February 23, a court ordered the release of Mohamed al-Zawahiri, 64, while the investigation was still underway. Security officials said Zawahiri walked out on Thursday from a Cairo prison after having spent more than two-and-a-half years behind bars. “My father has been released. He reached home early this morning,” his son, Abdelrahman Zawahiri, told AFP. Zawahiri was acquitted in 2015 of charges related to forming “a terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda” and plotting attacks on government installations, security forces and Egypt’s Christian minority. The judge, however, kept him in detention and ordered an investigation into remarks made by Zawahiri during the trial in which he allegedly called for the formation of a “terrorist group.” [AFP, Aswat Masriya (Arabic), 3/17/2016]


Egypt central bank raises key interest rates
The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) raised its key interest rates on Thursday by 150 basis points to curb inflationary pressures. The bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) raised the overnight deposit rate to 10.75 percent from 9.25 percent and the overnight lending rate to 11.75 percent from 10.25 percent. The CBE devalued the pound on Monday to 8.85 pounds per dollar from 7.73 pounds. Two days later the bank strengthened it slightly to 8.78 per dollar as it adopted a more flexible exchange rate policy. Most experts had predicted the MPC would hike rates to defend the pound following the devaluation, with forecasts ranging from a 50 to 100 basis point hike. “The Monetary Policy Committee judges that a rate hike is warranted to anchor inflation expectations,” the CBE said. “The central bank’s monetary policy will be geared towards maintaining price stability by avoiding double digit inflation rates over the medium-term to maintain real incomes.” [Reuters, Bloomberg, Ahram Online, 3/17/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt stocks continue rally after pound strengthens | Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya
  • Sisi says food prices will not rise due to dollar price | MENA
  • French wheat exporters to lose out even as Egypt tries to settle fungus dispute | Reuters
  • Egypt’s one-year, six-month T bill yields rise as central bank raises key rates | Reuters
  • Moody’s expresses support for Egypt’s pound devaluation | DNE


Doctors Syndicate calls for protests Saturday at selected hospitals around Egypt
Egypt’s Doctors Syndicate will organize protests in one large hospital in each governorate on Saturday, the syndicate has said in a statement, to protest to the lack of accountability for policemen who allegedly assaulted doctors earlier this year. According to the syndicate’s statement, doctors will protest at 9am outside the selected hospitals, without affecting medical care for patients. Friday’s statement said the protests would take place as a reminder that “the attackers of doctors at Cairo’s Matariya Hospital have yet to be referred to court.” [Ahram Online, AMAY, 3/18/2016]

Al-Azhar University expels three students for complicity in killing Egypt’s attorney general
Al-Azhar University President Ibrahim Hodhod expelled three students over their alleged complicity in last year’s assassination of Attorney General Hisham Barakat, the university media center announced Thursday. The “final expulsion” decision was made “after launching necessary legal interrogation according to Law No.74 for the Year 1961,” said the statement, adding that all Egyptian universities will be informed with the decision and the names of the expelled students in order not to enroll them. The decision came a day after the three students, along with a graduate from the same university, appeared in a video released by the Ministry of Interior in which they recounted their involvement in the attack. [Cairo Post, 3/18/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Egyptian monk turns himself in to authorities in monastery dispute case | Ahram Online
  • Journalists Syndicate General Assembly postponed again | Mada Masr


$20 million in Kuwaiti aid to Egypt for improve education for Syrian refugees
A grant of $20 million from the Kuwaiti Fund for Arab Economic Development to improve education services for Syrian refugees in Egypt was approved by the cabinet Thursday. The grant will be used to build educational facilities to guarantee greater retention of Syrian students. A total of 118,512 Syrian refugees are registered in Egypt and the total number of refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless people amount to 250,600, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNCHR). The number of refugees in Egypt, both registered and unregistered, may reach three million, according to the Egyptian Foundation for Refugee Rights. [Cairo Post, 3/18/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt condemns Israeli declaration to seize West Bank lands | Aswat Masriya, SIS
  • Al-Azhar’s Ahmed al-Tayeb to visit Paris in April to continue ‘dialogue’ | Cairo Post