Top News: Leahy Asked State Department to Investigate Egyptian, Israeli Human Rights ‘Violations’

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and 10 House members have asked the Obama administration to investigate claims that the Israeli and Egyptian security forces have committed “gross violations of human rights” — allegations that if proven true could affect US military aid to the countries. In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry dated February 17, the lawmakers list several examples of suspected human rights abuses, including reports of extrajudicial killings by Israeli and Egyptian military forces, as well as forced disappearances in Egypt. The letter also points to the 2013 massacre in Egypt’s Raba’a Square, which left nearly 1,000 people dead as the military cracked down on protesters, as worthy of examination. Leahy’s signature is particularly noteworthy because his name is on a law that conditions US military aid to countries on whether their security forces are committing abuses. “In light of these reports we request that you act promptly to determine their credibility and whether they trigger the Leahy Law and, if so, take appropriate action called for under the law,” the signatories state in the letter, which was obtained by Politico. [Politico, 3/29/2016]


Dismissal of Central Auditing Organization head sparks criticism
The dismissal of top auditor Hisham Geneina from his position as head of the Central Auditing Organization (CAO), upon order of a presidential decree, has come under fire from some political parties and members of parliament. The Egyptian Social Democratic Party (ESDP) criticized the move in a statement Wednesday saying, “The decision strikes us as it comes one day after Prime Minister Sherif Ismail made promises to the people to adopt counter-corruption strategies during his statement before the House of Representatives on Sunday.” Despite accusing the state of “having planned to sack Geneina for a long-time,” ESDP stated it was not defending the former CAO head as a person, but rather questioning the legal, constitutional, and political grounds of his dismissal, expressing concern over “the executive authority’s fascist disregard of constitutional principles.” MPs Mohamed Anwar Sadat and Alaa Abdel Moneim were critical of the parliament’s decision not to investigate the corruption claims, saying Monday that an investigation was part of its monitoring role. They also denied allegations that the work of the parliament could have interfered with ongoing investigations. A few opposition figures including lawyer Khaled Ali and writer Alaa al-Aswany also condemned the decision. [DNE, 3/30/2016]


April 6 Youth Movement case suspended due to lack of evidence
The Dokki prosecution decided Monday to suspend an illegal protest case involving seven April 6 Youth Movement members ordering the release of the seven defendants. Four of the defendants, among them Mohamed Nabil, Sherif al-Roubi, Mahmoud Hesham, and Ayman Abdel Hamid, were also accused of joining an illegal group that aims to break constitutional law, disturb public peace, and incite demonstrations without permits. Roubi said the case depended only on narratives delivered by “secret investigation” authorities, adding that his lawyer questioned the judge about the identity of the “secret investigation” authority mentioned in the case, but no clarification was made. The three other defendants in the case were accused of holding a demonstration in Dokki that insulted the army and police forces and incited citizens to demonstrate against the government. [DNE , 3/29/2016]

Interrogation of Nazra director postponed, lawyers not permitted to review case files
The interrogation of Mozn Hassan, Executive Director of the Nazra For Feminist Studies center, was postponed, according to a statement released by the organization on Tuesday morning. Hassan went to New Cairo Court on Tuesday morning to appear before an investigative judge, as per a summons she received last week, but when Hassan’s lawyers went to meet with the judge and review the case files, they were informed the interrogation had been delayed. They were told they would be able to examine the files at a later date, after which Hassan would be re-summoned for investigation. Hassan’s lawyers originally had an appointment with the judge to review the case files on March 27, according to Nazra, but were informed no one was available to examine the files with them on both March 27 and March 28. Commenting on the re-opened NGO investigation, MP Anwar Sadat told Daily News Egypt in an interview that “wanting to regulate [NGO’s] work according to the law and ensure transparency in their funding should not translate into fighting, defaming, and intimidating them, as is the current situation.” He added, “NGOs have a role in raising awareness. According to international protocols that Egypt has ratified and the constitution, they must at the very least be protected and encouraged.” [Mada Masr, 3/30/2016]

Cairo Court sentences 15 to life over ‘Second Maspero Incidents’
The Cairo Criminal Court sentenced on Wednesday 23 defendants in the case known as the second “Maspero trial,” to 10 to 25 years in prison. Fifteen of the defendants received 25 years in prison and a fine of EGP 20,000, while three others received 15 years. Another five defendants were sentenced to 10 years. All the defendants will be on probation for a period of time equal to the duration of their sentence. Of the 23 defendants, 17 are in prison, with the remaining six sentenced in absentia. The prosecution accused the defendants of several charges, including illegal assembly, attempted murder, and attacking public and private facilities. The case dates back to the July 2013 clashes between security personnel and Morsi supporters outside the Maspero state television building. [Cairo Post, DNE, 3/30/2016]

Egyptian activist Tarek ‘Tito’ acquitted in Muslim Brotherhood guidance bureau case
Activist Tarek Hussein, whose brother was detained for wearing an anti-torture T-shirt, was acquitted Tuesday a week after his brother’s release. Hussein, known as Tito, had been sentenced in absentia to three years for using violence and terrorizing citizens in front of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau in Moqattam, eastern Cairo, in 2013 when then-President Mohamed Morsi was still in office. The case dates back to clashes that erupted at the Brotherhood headquarters in March 2013. “Lifting injustice is not justice,” Hussein said, commenting on the acquittal, adding that there are thousands of detainees in pretrial detention who deserve to be released. Hussein has been arrested twice since the January 2011 uprising, once under Morsi and once under current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. In 2013, Hussein was accused of plotting against the regime, and in 2014, he was accused of belonging to the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood. Hussein was also acquitted of all charges in the other case and is currently clear of any charges or sentences. [Aswat Masriya, 3/29/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Court upholds jail sentences against two Al Warraq boat convicts | Cairo Post


Saudi’s Savola says EBRD will invest $100 million in Egypt subsidiary
Saudi Arabia’s largest food products company, Savola Group, said Tuesday that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will invest $100 million in one of its indirect subsidiaries in Egypt. The investment in United Sugar Company of Egypt (USCE) will include a fresh injection of $50 million, as well as the conversion of existing debt of $50 million to equity. The deal will bolster the USCE balance sheet and help it cope with Egypt’s economic challenges, a statement said. Savola said that under its deal the share capital of USCE will be increased and new shares will be issued to the EBRD. [Reuters, 3/29/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt’s main index rises, unaffected by EgyptAir plane hijacking | Ahram Online, AMAY
  • Vodafone Egypt owes Telecom Egypt $506.8 million in deferred profits | Reuters
  • Trading in Telecom Egypt shares suspended | Reuters
  • Egypt’s Heliopolis Housing to invest $62 million in 2016-17 | Reuters
  • As dollar crosses EGP 10 on black market, official rate steady | Mada Masr


Armed Forces says three terrorists killed in Sheikh Zuweid
Three suspected terrorists were killed in army raid following an exchange of fire near Sinai’s Sheikh Zuweid on Wednesday. A force of the second field army was setting up a checkpoint when it became suspicious of three men riding motorcycles without plates. According to an army statement [Warning: graphic images], the suspects opened fire on the personnel when the force tried to stop them for inspection, which led to the killing of the three suspects. The army said they found a machine gun and a radio set on the suspects. A security source told daily Youm7 that the Armed Forces had killed 13 alleged militants [Warning: graphic images] in raids in North Sinai. It was unclear if the three suspects killed in Sheikh Zuweid were among the 13 killed. [DNE, 3/30/2016]


Family of slain Italian student demands strong response to Egypt
The parents of Italian graduate student Giulio Regeni, who was tortured and killed in Cairo, demanded on Tuesday a tough response from Rome if Egypt fails to uncover the truth behind their son’s murder. Giulio’s mother, Paola Regeni, said she might release a photograph of her son’s body to show the world what had happened to him in Egypt if his murderers were not revealed. “I only recognized him because of the tip of his nose. As for everything else, it was no longer him,” she said in the first news conference the family has given since Giulio’s battered body was found in a roadside ditch on February 3. The couple earlier informed Italian investigators that most of the items that Egypt’s interior ministry claimed belonged to Giulio — such as a red sports bag and sunglasses — and had been found in the house of a gang of robbers weren’t their son’s at all, bar some documents including his passport and student identification card. At the Senate in Rome following their arrival from their home in northeastern Italy, the couple also pressed the Italian government to step up the pressure on Cairo to solve the young man’s slaying, including, if necessary, declaring Egypt to be an “unsafe” country for Italian tourists. Sen. Luigi Manconi, who heads the Senate’s human rights commission, urged the Italian government to recall its ambassador to Cairo for “consultations” as a way to step up diplomatic pressure. Premier Matteo Renzi has insisted Italy will settle for nothing less than the truth. [Ahram Online, AMAY, AP, Reuters, 3/29/2016]

EgyptAir hijacker detained for eight days in Cyprus
A Cypriot court on Wednesday ordered an Egyptian man to be detained for eight days after authorities said he admitted hijacking a domestic EgyptAir flight and diverting it to the Mediterranean island by threatening to blow it up with a fake explosives belt. Cyprus police prosecutor Andreas Lambrianou said the suspect, whom authorities had identified as 59-year-old Seif Eddin Mustafa, faces preliminary charges including hijacking, illegal possession of explosives, kidnapping and threats to commit violence. The allegation regarding explosives could be dropped if the liquid found with Mustafa is not explosive material. Judge Maria Loizou said she found the police request for the maximum eight-day detention necessary because of fears the suspect might flee and the fact that he admitted to the hijacking in a voluntary statement to police. Egypt’s General Prosecutor Nabil Sadek, meanwhile, has officially asked Cyprus to extradite Mustafa in order to start an investigation, his office said. Egypt’s Interior Ministry also said Tuesday that the Mustafa has a criminal record involving cases of forgery, impersonation, and theft. The ministry added that all security measures were applied before the plane took off. “His handbag was checked and contained personal non-prohibited belongings which he used to imply that he was wearing an explosive belt and threatened the crew and passengers,” the ministry said, adding that “his request to reroute the flight was approved for passengers and plane safety.” Meanwhile, Egypt’s presidency expressed on Tuesday its sincere thanks and appreciation to Cyprus over their efforts to help end the EgyptAir flight hijacking situation that finished in Cyprus’s Larnaca. [DNE, Reuters, AP, AFP, 3/30/2016]

Also of Interest

  • German Interior Minister visits Cairo to deliver speech on religious tolerance | Cairo Post
  • Hamas delegation in Cairo to discuss borders, relations | AMAY
  • Saudi delegation in Cairo to prepare for King Salman’s visit | SIS
  • Canada to grant Egypt $50 million for education development | Cairo Post
  • Egypt welcomes recapture of Palmyra from ISIS | Cairo Post, SIS