Top News: Media Gag Imposed on NGO Foreign Funding Case

Investigating Judge Hisham Abdel Meguid issued Monday evening a gag order on the recently reopened case against local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) accused of unlawfully accepting foreign funds. The gag order prohibits any type of media outlet from publishing anything on the case other than statements issued by the presiding judges until investigations are complete. The order was issued shortly after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, other members of the Cabinet, the head of General Intelligence, and the presidential adviser on national security affairs, the privately owned newspaper Al-Shorouk reported Monday. In the meeting, Sisi stressed the importance of improving Egypt’s image abroad, his spokesperson Alaa Youssef said. Seventeen Egyptian rights organizations, meanwhile, issued a joint statement Monday condemning the reopening of the case, referring to it as an “orchestrated, escalating assault” on civil society in Egypt. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, Cairo Post, 3/22/2016]


ElBaradei’s name removed from textbook, Education Ministry insists move not political
The name and photo of former Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei has been removed from a list of Egyptian Nobel laureates in fifth-grade textbooks, independent newspaper Al-Tahrir has revealed.
Speaking to ONtv on Monday, Bashir Hassan, a spokesperson for the Education Ministry, refused to directly confirm the omission, only stressing that “nobody can tamper with history” and promising that the ministry would investigate the development. According to Daily News Egypt, Hassan confirmed ElBaradei’s name was removed from the textbook but said that the decision dates back to over a year ago, under former Minister of Education Moheb al-Rafie. According to Hassan, when the ministry asked the committee responsible for the national curriculum about the reason behind the removal they stated that it was based on complaints by students’ families. “The families complained that this exercise was too advanced for the students’ cognitive abilities,” he said. “There were not any political motives behind the removal.” He added that he was “personally not convinced by the purported claim that the exercise was too hard for students.” Youm7 quoted an unnamed ministry official as saying that the removal of ElBaradei’s name was requested by parents and teachers due to his “hostile, anti-government comments” and also to “avoid any distraction or disputes among the students.”  Minister of Education al-Helaly al-Sherbiny has reportedly formed an investigative committee to look into the matter. Many social media users expressed their concern about the removal of ElBaradei’s name, including TV anchor Liliane Daoud, who tweeted: “Removing a scholar’s name from papers is not degrading per say, but history will remember your ignorance.” The post was retweeted by ElBaradei’s official account [DNE, Egypt Independent, 3/21/2016]

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Fifteen judges dismissed for engaging in ‘political activity’
Egypt’s state-run news agency says the top judicial disciplinary council issued a final verdict forcing 15 judges into early retirement for allegedly supporting the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group. MENA said Monday that investigations have shown that the judges are members of the ‘Judges for Egypt’ movement, which opposed the military overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi. The news agency says the group supports the Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails, violating impartiality rules. Some of the judges read a televised statement supporting Morsi’s “legitimacy” while at a public sit-in by his supporters in Cairo’s Raba’a al-Adaweya square. The judges were forced into retirement by the Supreme Judicial Council on March 14, 2015, but later filed an appeal on the grounds that the verdict was unlawful. This decision is final and is not subject to further appeal. The board will issue a final decision on March 28 regarding another 55 judges who signed a statement voicing their support for Morsi following his ouster in 2013. [Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, DNE, AP, Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, 3/21/2016]

Court rejects Badie’s request of new judge, fines him EGP 2,000
The Cairo Appeals Court rejected a request on Monday demanding the removal of the judge in the ‘Raba’a Operations room’ retrial, leading to the continuation of the case after it was suspended for one day. The demand was presented to the court on Sunday by the defense team of Mohamed Badie, the Supreme Guide of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, who was instead fined EGP 2,000. Judge Moataz Khafagy, who is presiding over the case, told Aswat Masriya that he will decide on the date of the next trial session after the case’s file is presented to him on April 4.  Badie also stood trial on Monday in front of a court at the Police Academy in the case involving the post-Raba’a al-Adaweya sit-in violence in Ismailia. Badie is charged with inciting supporters to burn government buildings. That case will continue on Tuesday. [Aswat Masriya, DNE, 3/21/2016].


Egypt central bank sells $104.5 million at regular FX auction
The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) kept the pound stable at 8.78 per dollar at its regular foreign currency auction on Tuesday, its first since cutting the number of auctions to once a week from three. The CBE said it sold $104.5 million at the auction after offering $120 million earlier on Tuesday.  However, the pound weakened on the black market as demand exceeded supply. Black market sources said they would sell dollars at a range between 9.68-9.70 pounds on Tuesday, without specifying volumes of trade. [Reuters, 3/22/2016]

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Health Minister refers Doctors Syndicate board member to investigation
Minister of Health Ahmed Emad referred Doctors Syndicate board member Ahmed Shawky to investigation on charges related to a campaign to provide free healthcare to Egyptian citizens. The campaign comes amid a string of partial strikes by medical professionals in protest of alleged assaults on doctors by police. The minister’s decision is illegal, Ihab al-Taher, member of the senior syndicate board, said. “Executive institutions are not allowed to interfere in syndicates’ work. The complaining entity should refer back to the syndicate general board to undertake necessary procedures,” he said. “The syndicate will respond to this action over the course of Emad’s investigation before the Primary Discipline Authority,” he added. The Health Ministry spokesperson could not be reached for comment. The syndicate, meanwhile, announced it will hold another general assembly for its members on Friday at Qasr al-Eini Hospital, to follow up on the progress of decisions ratified over a month ago. [DNE, 3/22/2016]

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Military seizes explosive laden truck in Sinai; Ten militants reportedly killed in Sheikh Zuweid
Egypt is escalating its counterterrorism operations after a bomb killed at least 15 security personnel in the North Sinai city of al-Arish on Saturday, the headlines of several local newspapers announced Monday. Unconfirmed reports published in Al-Shorouk and Al-Masry al-Youm Monday claimed that in response to the bombing, a counterterrorism operation was conducted in Arish, Sheikh Zuweid, and Rafah. The operation killed 10 purported militants, while four others were arrested and are being interrogated about the attack. Armed Forces Spokesperson Mohamed Samir also issued a statement Monday saying the military seized a truck in Central Sinai filled with explosive materials. Samir told Al-Ahram Sunday that the military could instantly uproot North Sinai’s militant insurgency but is refraining due to concerns for the lives of local residents. The Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) mission in Sinai also reportedly evacuated checkpoints in North Sinai following the deadly attack. An informed security source told Daily News Egypt that the MFO is temporarily evacuating the sites, in order to enhance the security of the checkpoints and to ensure safe routes for logistics, after repeated deadly attacks by militants in the area. Meanwhile, a policeman and two conscripts are still missing three days after Saturday’s North Sinai attack, according to Al-Ahram. President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi met Tuesday with defense and interior ministers, the armed forces’ chief of staff, and a number of top officials to discuss security developments in Egypt, specifically in North Sinai. [Mada Masr, Ahram Online, 3/22/2016]

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Egypt condemns Brussels terror attacks, calls for tough international measures to fight terrorism
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry condemned in the “strongest terms” the deadly blasts that rocked Belgium’s capital Brussels on Tuesday morning, leaving at least 26 dead and dozens injured dozens. “The time has come for the world to make a final stand to deal with the phenomenon of international terrorism that targets the security and stability of peoples around the world, and that seeks to undermine all human civilization,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said in a statement. Egypt also said it was increasing security, with top security officials asked to personally handle security checks inside airports and in outside areas like hotels and car parks. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, SIS, 3/22/2016]

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