Top News: Outgoing Agriculture Minister Detained Pending Investigation Into Corruption Charges

Egypt’s outgoing Agriculture Minister Salah Helal was arrested in Cairo on Monday after being told to step aside in connection with an investigation into corruption at his ministry, judicial and media sources said. Salah Helal “resigned on the orders of the president,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s office said. He was detained after a meeting in the premier’s office, a judicial source told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. Officials at the agriculture ministry are alleged to have taken bribes worth over $1 million to help businessmen illegally acquire state land, a prosecution official and media reports said. A statement by acting Prosecutor General Ali Omran also said that Helal and three other ministry officials also were detained pending an investigation. Later on Monday Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab selected Irrigation Minister Hossam Moghazi to step in as acting Agriculture Minister until a new appointment is made. Mahlab said Monday that the cabinet has said from its first day it would fight all forms of corruption and tolerate none. He added that there are no current consultations to make changes in the new cabinet. Meanwhile, former presidential hopeful and chairman of Strong Egypt Party Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh praised Helal’s arrest. “The arrest of a corrupt minister out of thousands of other corruptors is an appreciated step to lead to holding all the corrupt who have looted billions from the homeland’s wealth,” he wrote on Twitter Monday. [AFP, Ahram Online, Reuters, AP, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 9/8/2015]


Egyptian court rulings force electoral committee to change plans
Two court decisions were issued Monday highlighting violations to parliamentary electoral laws. One ruling issued by the Administrative Court stated that the decision by the High Elections Committee (HEC) to accept candidate’s medical check-ups conducted in February was a violation of the House of Representatives law. Following the ruling, the HEC extended the scheduled registration period, originally scheduled to close on September 12, for three days in order to allow candidates to retake their medical tests. The Administrative Court also accepted a lawsuit filed by a lawyer against Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab’s decision to change the boundaries of two electoral constituencies, one in Cairo and one in Qena. The lawsuit argued that Egypt’s official gazette had issued the constituency law with a change in the locations of the two constituencies, and it was unclear whether the Prime Minister intended to make these changes or whether it was a procedural error. Constitutional expert Shawky Sayed said the HEC should implement the court’s decisions without suspending any of its activities, while state-owned Al-Ahram suggested Mahlab’s intervention violates the constitution. The Dostour Party, meanwhile, has retracted its earlier decision to boycott elections, and is set to participate in the elections, member of the high board Khaled Dawoud said. Dawoud said that the party’s Secretary General Tamer Gomaa held a vote among the party members in which the majority voted ‘yes’ to participation in the elections. At least 4,273 parliamentary hopefuls have submitted their papers to register as candidates since the registration period began last Wednesday, the HEC announced in a statement Monday. [Ahram Online, Mada Masr, 9/8/2015]

Prime Minister cancels exemption for children of officers, judges from university zoning
Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab ordered education minister El Sayed Abdel Khalek to cancel a move by the Supreme Council of Universities to exempt children of judges, police officers, and army officers from having their university admission restricted according to their address as is standard. “Mahlab said there are no exceptions in zoning of students in Egyptian universities,” Mahlab’s Media Advisor Hany Youssef was quoted as saying on Egyptian TV program Albeit Beitak. The media advisor himself was not on air. The exemption decision sparked controversy among students and professors alike since its announcement last Wednesday. [Ahram Online, 9/7/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Sisi warns of threat of information warfare | Aswat Masriya
  • Egyptian electoral coalitions falter as candidate registration moves ahead | Ahram Online
  • Egypt’s Salafist Call expelled members supporting violence says Borhamy  | Ahram Online
  • Egypt’s Social Democratic Party rejects Abul-Ghar’s resignation | Ahram Online


Cairo Criminal Court releases reasoning behind Al Jazeera trial verdict
An Egyptian court released a detailed ruling Sunday on why it sentenced three Al Jazeera English journalists to three years in prison for airing what it described as “false news” and biased coverage. The ruling, published by the state news agency MENA, says the three men—Canadian national Mohammed Fahmy, Australian journalist Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed—were by default members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group, which Egyptian authorities consider a terrorist organization. “It has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that the Al Jazeera media channel has dedicated its broadcasting to the service and support of the Muslim Brotherhood faction and that they have permanently sided with them at the expense of their media ethics,” the ruling said. “This provides enough ground for a conviction of belonging to a group based on violations of the law.” The ruling also said the three operated without press credentials and secretly worked at the Marriott hotel in central Cairo without a permit. The journalists and the network deny the accusations. The court said Qatar was using the Al Jazeera Mubasher channel to publish news aimed at “bringing down the Egyptian state.” It also said Al Jazeera staff reporters filmed Tahrir Square during the June 30 uprisings from an angle that deliberately made it look empty. The channel was also alleged to have stalked sexual harassment cases that occurred during the protests, in order to highlight them. [DNE, Ahram Online, AP, 9/6/2015]

Egyptian anti-corruption activist arrested, investigated for bribery charges
Former Member of Parliament and independent lawyer Hamdi al-Fakharany, known in Egypt for his anti-corruption activities, was arrested on Sunday evening and is being investigated on charges of bribery, Egypt’s interior ministry announced. In a statement issued on Monday afternoon, the interior ministry said that a businessman and his lawyer reported Fakharany to the ministry’s public funds investigations department for allegedly demanding an EGP 3.5 million bribe in return for dropping his lawsuit against the businessman. Fakharany is suing the businessman to claim back land in Minya which the latter bought from Nile Cotton Ginning Company. According to the ministry of interior, the meeting between Fakharany and the businessman and his lawyer was recorded and presented as evidence. The prosecution has imposed a gag order on the media regarding the case. [Ahram Online, 9/7/2015]

Egyptian court sentences nine to death for killing policeman guarding judge
A Mansoura criminal court sentenced nine defendants to death on Monday for the murder of an off-duty police officer who was part of a judge’s security detail. Fourteen others were sentenced to life in prison in the same case, while another defendant was sentenced to ten years in prison. Police sergeant Abdallah Metwally was killed in February 2014 while returning to his home in Daqahliya governorate, after concluding his shift guarding the house of a judge. The verdict can still be appealed. Meanwhile, Egypt’s prosecution referred at least thirty-five alleged Islamists, including influential exiled cleric, Youssef al-Qardawi, to military trial Saturday, accusing them of setting up militant cells that killed a police officer. The prosecution added that twenty-four out of thirty-five defendants were in custody  and had confessed to “belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood” and their membership in “operations cells” which target police officers and civilians collaborating with security apparatuses. Meanwhile, the defense team of fifteen individuals accused of membership of a terrorist cell have requested full access to the case’s papers in a Sunday session at the Hikestep military court. The defendants include individuals who were part of a wave of enforced disappearances and who later appeared in a ministry of defense video, appearing to confess to crimes in testimonies that family members said were produced via torture. The case has been postponed to September 17. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 9/7/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Three doctors referred to investigation following student’s death | DNE
  • Cairo court postpones ruling on suit designating Turkey, Qatar as supporters of terror | Ahram Online


Egypt to issue at least $1 billion international bonds in 2015
Egypt plans to raise between $1 billion and $1.5 billion from international markets by issuing bonds before the end of the calendar year, Samy Khallaf, Head of Debt Management at the finance ministry said Monday at the Euromoney Egypt Conference. The planned bond issuance is part of a $10 billion program, $1.5 billion of which was raised in June, according to Khallaf. In addition, Finance Minister Hany Kany Dimian said Egypt plans to issue Islamic bonds (Sukuk) to finance its budget deficit for the current fiscal year. The Sukuk will be issued in 2016, Dimian said at the Euromoney conference. Meanwhile, Investment Minister Ashraf Salman said at the conference that Egypt needs $51.1 billion in domestic investments and $10 billion in foreign direct investments to grow at a rate of 5 to 5.5 percent of gross domestic product. He added that the depreciation of Egypt’s pound “is no longer a matter of choice.” According to the Central Bank, Egypt’s foreign currency reserves fell to $18.096 billion at the end of August from $18.534 billion in July. [Ahram Online, Bloomberg, 9/7/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt and Tunisia seek to boost bilateral trade by $500 million | Amwal Al Ghad, Al Bawaba
  • Egypt gets $243 million electricity fund from Japan says minister | Aswat Masriya
  • Egypt signs deal with China Construction to build, finance, part of new capital | Reuters
  • Foreign consultants miss Renaissance Dam deadline; Egypt concerned | Ahram Online, DNE
  • $600 million of foreign partners’ dues paid last month says Molla | DNE
  • Economic reforms will continue to build on achievements, says Sisi | DNE
  • Dana Gas says Egypt find a big draw for international investors | Reuters
  • Sawiris says ‘stagnation’ is stopping him from investing in Egypt | Reuters
  • Egypt could export up to 1 million tonnes of rice this season | Reuters
  • Minister says Egypt’s new gas find won’t slow economic reforms | AP
  • Egypt to present $2.3 billion in public-private partnership projects in 2016 | Ahram Online
  • Egypt’s new administrative capital to be implemented via investment zones | DNE


Egypt’s State Commissioners oppose banning Rassd News Network
Egypt’s State Commissioners on Sunday issued a report recommending that the administrative court reject a lawsuit filed by lawyer Samir Sabry that calls for the censoring of Rassd News Network (RNN) on social media. The lawyer accused RNN, which operates on social media networks from Turkey, of spreading false news in Egypt and supporting the banned Muslim Brotherhood. The network has previously been accused of broadcasting false news and having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. The State Commissioners’ report emphasized that the Egyptian constitution conforms to international human rights agreements to ensure freedom of expression in all its forms–political, economic, and social. According to the report, Egypt’s communication and information technology laws of 1999, 2003, and 2004 don’t allow government agencies to ban or block any website from appearing in Egypt. The report also stated that only in instances where national security is directly threatened can the government contact the hosting server which then will ban or block a website affiliated with the threat. It indicated that Sabry did not provide sufficient evidence to prove that Rassd has been spreading false news about Egypt, nor offered specific examples of fabricated news. [Ahram Online, 9/6/2015]

Minister dissolves fifty-seven Brotherhood-affiliated NGOs
Egypt’s Social Solidarity Ministry Ghada Waly ordered on Monday the dissolution of fifty-seven non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for “ties with the Muslim Brotherhood.” Waly said in an official statement, “This decision comes in implementation of the law banning all activities of any association that is branched from the Brotherhood, that was founded by Brotherhood funds or that receives any form of support from the Brotherhood.” Of the fifty-seven NGOs, thirty-three are located in Daqahliya, seventeen in Sharqiya, six in Beheira and one in Kafr al-Sheikh. According to Aswat Masriya, this brings the total number of NGOs dissolved in 2015 so far to 380. [AMAY, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 9/7/2015]

Also of Interest

  • ‘Not the time for protests,’ Egypt’s Prime Minister says ahead of tax employee demonstrations | Ahram Online
  • Egyptian business tycoon Sawiris welcomes contributions to ‘refugee island’ | Ahram Online
  • Grand Mufti condemns Monday’s Rafah attack | DNE
  • Amnesty decries treatment of injured detainee Esraa al-Taweel | Mada Masr, Amnesty International
  • Rights group details state’s grip on print media | Mada Masr, ANHRI (Arabic)


Egypt in ‘major operation’ in Sinai, twenty-nine militants killed
Egypt’s army announced on television in the early hours Tuesday morning that it launched an extensive military operation, titled ‘The Martyr’s Right’ on Monday in the North Sinai region to root out Islamist insurgents. The operation, carried out in the towns of Rafah, Arish, and Sheikh Zuweid, reportedly resulted in the deaths of twenty-nine militants. It also added that two Egyptian soldiers were killed and four injured during the operation. In a statement, meanwhile, the Islamic State’s Egypt affiliate, Sinai State, said it killed the two soldiers with a roadside bomb that targeted their vehicle as it left a military base with a large convoy. [Ahram Online, DNE, AFP, Aswat Masriya, 9/8/2015]

Five arrested for August bombing of police bus in Beheira; Five policemen injured in attack on security patrol
Egyptian police have reportedly arrested five men accused of involvement in the bombing of a police bus in the Northern governorate of Beheira last month which killed three police conscripts and injured twenty-seven others. The interior ministry has said in a statement that the attackers “aimed to drive a wedge between the police personnel and the interior ministry, as the explosion took place at the same time as the Sharqiya police personnel protest.” Additionally, five policemen were reportedly injured during an armed attack on a security patrol in Beheira on Monday. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 9/5/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Policeman killed in Giza raid | Ahram Online
  • Official: Bombs may have been targeting Sinai peacekeepers | AP


Egypt discusses draft law to fight illegal immigration; Navy prevents illegal immigration attempts of 228
Egypt’s national security committee passed a draft law imposing up to five years imprisonment and a fine for human trafficking, Minister of Transitional Justice Ibrahim Heneidy on Sunday. The fine is set to be between EGP 50,000 (around $6,388) and EGP 200,000 ($25,550), Heneidy said. The draft also stipulates a penalty of up to life in prison if the human trafficking process is organized by a group known for implementing a “terrorist target” or if a migrant dies. The draft law is due to be referred to the state committee tasked with carrying out legislative reform, ahead of its ratification by the cabinet, the minister added. The anti-illegal immigration law deals with illegal immigrants as “victims,” Heneidy explained. Meanwhile, the Egyptian navy has prevented the illegal immigration by sea of 228 people from “different nationalities” on Sunday, the military spokesman said. The passengers were due to start their journey off the coast of Alexandria in Egypt’s north on three fishing boats but were stopped by the navy, spokesman Mohamed Samir said in a statement. The passengers and crew were all taken to Alexandria’s naval base and referred to authorities. [DNE, Aswat Masriya, 9/6/2015]

Also of Interest

  • UN chief invites Egypt, Saudi, Jordan to Mideast Quartet meeting | Ahram Online
  • French Prime Minister to visit Egypt in October | Aswat Masriya
  • Belgium holds Cairo flight over ‘suspect’ passenger | AFP
  • Egypt’s Sisi leaves Indonesia, ending Asian tour | Ahram Online
  • Egypt’s Sisi offers UAE crown prince condolences for Yemen slain soldiers | Ahram Online
  • Sisi to visit Japan in November | AMAY
  • Egypt attends conference against “Islamic State Fighters in Syria and Iraq” | Aswat Masriya
  • Egypt PM meets counterpart in Tunisia | Aswat Masriya
  • Egypt’s Assistant Foreign Minister: Consultations between Egypt, Russia wrap up | SIS
  • Shoukry takes part in Paris conference on victims of attacks, ethnic violence in Paris | SIS
  • US Embassy in Cairo dispatches new travel warning | Mada Masr
  • US State Dept features Sanaa Seif in campaign for women prisoners | Mada Masr, US State Department