Top News: Obama Raises Concerns with Sisi; New US Ambassador Arrives in Egypt

The White House says President Barack Obama has voiced concern to Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi over mass trials and the imprisonment of journalists and peaceful activists in Egypt.


Egypt’s parliamentary constituencies law awaits president ratification
Egypt’s electoral constituencies law was presented to the President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi on Thursday for a final procedural ratification, the last step needed before parliamentary elections. The cabinet endorsed a final draft after the both State Council’s ‎Department of Legislations and Edicts and the Higher Election ‎Committee (HEC) approved it.‎ If ratified, the HEC will ‎start preparation for the final election procedures and set ‎a date for candidate registration in the polls. According to private daily, Shorouk, the elections will take place in two or three stages. The Salafi Nour Party, however, was critical of the law, and accused the government of hastily issuing it. “They did not wait for the political parties to study it,” party spokesman Nader Bakkar said. [Ahram Online, 12/19/2014]


Egypt courts acquit 130 ‘Brotherhood’ members
Over 100 alleged Muslim Brotherhood members were acquitted on charges of violence, unauthorized protests and sabotage from two Egyptian courts on Thursday. Cairo criminal court acquitted thirty people on charges of violence that took place in the eastern district of Moqattam in front of the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood in June.  The prosecution had charged the defendants with possession of weapons, ammunition and explosives. Another court in the Nile Delta city of Kafr al-Sheikh acquitted 100 people, with only twenty of them present and the rest tried in absentia, from various charges including breaching the protest law. [Ahram Online, 12/18/2014]

Also of Interest
Judges Club elections being amid moderate turnout | Shorouk (Arabic)
Gharbiya Imam and preacher detained fifteen days pending investigation on charges of joining a terrorist group | EGYNews (Arabic)


Egypt’s EGAS has tendered for at least 48 LNG cargoes: Traders
Egypt’s state-owned gas company EGAS has tendered to buy at least 48 cargoes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) for delivery in 2015/16, three traders said. A senior official at EGAS confirmed that there was a tender for multiple LNG cargoes during Egypt’s 2015/16 financial year, which runs from July 2015 to June 2016, but declined to say how many cargoes. The official told Reuters that the result of the tender was due by the end of this month and that seven companies had bid, adding that the contract would be split among multiple companies. [Reuters, 12/19/2014]


Fact-finding committee says 12,800 arrested in June 30 events
Approximately 12,800 people were arrested in the aftermath of the ouster of former Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi, according to the June 30 fact-finding committee. In a press statement, the committee’s secretary general said, as of July, 1,697 were convicted and are serving prison sentences, 3,714 were acquitted and 7,389 have been detained pending investigation, according to the Prisons Department records. The committee also announced that fifteen students were killed and 257 suspended during the previous academic year. While the number of students killed has not been disputed, a nationwide student campaign reports that the number of suspensions are at least twice that given by the committee. [Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, 12/18/2014]

Founding of state cyber-security body worries digital rights activists
Egyptian activists are concerned that a new government body set up to fight potential cyber-attacks represents an entrenchment of a security approach to digital information. Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab on Tuesday issued a decree founding the High Council for Cyber-Security in Egypt, to generate a national strategy to combat cyber-attacks. According to Ramy Raoof, a prominent Egyptian digital rights and security researcher, the plan shows that the state’s mentality when it comes to the digital and ICT sphere is a “security approach instead of a net neutrality approach.” [Ahram Online, 12/19/2014]

Also of Interest
Death toll rises to twenty-five in Sunday’s Suez ship collision | Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya
Five arrested in clashes between police and Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Alexandria | Aswat Masriya
Interior ministry: Limited NASL protests in governorates, some arrests made | Aswat Masriya (Arabic)
April 6 calls for January 25 anniversary protests | Ahram (Arabic)


Policeman killed in Nile Delta; Woman injured in North Sinai
A policeman was shot dead by unknown assailants in Beheira in northern Egypt on Thursday, as attacks on security personnel continue despite a crackdown on militant groups. Rabi Mohamed, 38, was shot in front of a friend’s house in a small town in Beheira governorate. Meanwhile, a 30-year-old woman suffered gunshot wounds on Friday in North Sinai’s Sheikh Zuwied by unidentified assailants, state-run MENA reported. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 12/19/2014]

Ten killed, twenty-two arrested in Sinai raids
An “extremist” was killed on Friday in a security campaign in different parts of North Sinai’s town of Arish, a security source said. Ten others were also arrested in the towns of Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid, the source told state-run MENA. Security forces destroyed four “terrorist hotbeds” as well and three motorbikes used in terrorist operations. Nine “terrorists” were killed on Thursday in a crossfire with armed forces in the Sinai Peninsula, Mohamed Samir, armed forces spokesman said. Twelve others were arrested, four of whom are wanted for security reasons, and the rest are suspects, Samir added. The campaign, part of armed forces’ security raids in the Peninsula, was carried out over two days. [Aswat Masriya, 12/19/2014]


Obama raises concerns with Sisi; New US ambassador arrives in Egypt
The White House says President Barack Obama has voiced concern to Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi over mass trials and the imprisonment of journalists and peaceful activists in Egypt. In a phone call to the Egyptian leader Thursday, Obama encouraged Sisi to attend to the “political, economic and social aspirations of the Egyptian people.” The White House readout added that “the two leaders agreed on the importance of continuing their countries’ close military and intelligence relationships.” Obama also extended condolences to the Egyptian people over recent terrorist attacks. Egypt’s presidential spokesman Alaa Youssef said Obama “hailed” Egypt’s crucial role in fighting terrorism, noting that the US will continue its support for Egypt to upgrade its ability to counterterror. Meanwhile, the new US ambassador to Egypt, Robert Stephen Beecroft, arrived in Cairo on Thursday, sixteen months after previous ambassador Anne Patterson had vacated the post. [AP, Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 12/19/2014]

Also of Interest
Sweden releases held Egyptian plane | Egypt Independent
Sisi stresses Egypt’s right to Nile water | Egypt Independent, Cairo Post
Sisi to visit China next week | SIS, Xinhua