Top News: Parliament Approves Terrorist Entities, Regulatory Bodies Laws

Egypt’s new parliament approved two controversial laws Sunday as it started reviewing legislation passed by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi since 2014. As the parliament races to meet its two-week deadline, Parliamentary Speaker Ali Abdel Aal urged MPs to expedite the ratification of decrees that were issued during the legislature’s three-year absence. “Time is passing us by, we only have four days left,” Abdel Aal said during Monday’s parliamentary session. On Sunday, the newly elected parliament approved the terrorist entities law, which details sentences for various terrorism-related crimes ranging from five years to the death penalty, and shields the military and police from legal penalties for what it calls proportionate use of force. The anti-terrorism law passed by an overwhelming 457 votes to 24. The law also fines journalists for contradicting the authorities’ version of any militant attack. The parliament also approved a law which grants the president the right to remove the heads of four state financial and regulatory bodies. According to DNE, 328 MPs voted in favor of the bill, 134 against it, and 13 abstained. Also on Sunday, the 415 MPs voted in favor of approving the National Defense Council decision to extend deployment of the country’s Armed Forces units in the Gulf area, the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandab strait. On Saturday, the Housing Committee passed a law that empowers the Armed Forces to build on land it owns without a need for permits. The new parliament also endorsed a law that sets Sisi’s annual salary and rewards at a ceiling of $63,000 or around EGP500,000, after MP’s who were given the floor said his salary is among the lowest of world leaders and presidents. Meanwhile, the Press Syndicate said in a statement Sunday that 12 journalists were prevented from entering the House of Representatives to cover parliamentary activities. Abdel Aal said Monday that the “problem” had been solved and that the reporters were able to proceed with their work. He added that they had been prevented because security was under the impression that the reporters were not syndicate members. [Ahram Online, DNE, 1/19/2016]


Interior Ministry announces high security alert for January 25, plans ‘Police Day Celebrations’
As the fifth anniversary of the 25 January Revolution approaches, the Ministry of Interior is extending its security measures throughout country, planning for “Police Day celebrations.” Despite calling for celebrations of ‘Police Day,’ the ministry announced a high security alert throughout Egypt, and will deploy heavily armored troops in public squares, in front of police stations and governmental institutions. The ministry also announced that all vacations are cancelled for officers and soldiers. The Interior Ministry is also set to move into its new headquarters in New Cairo’s First Settlement on January 23. [DNE, 1/18/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Doctors’ Syndicate calls for further amendments health insurance bill | DNE
  • Trade unions, parties reject proposed health insurance bill | AMAY
  • Sources: Removal of Six Ministers after parliament reviews government program | AMAY (Arabic)
  • Egypt’s PM calls for precautionary measures to avoid further mass fish deaths | Ahram Online


Egyptian journalist who filmed ‘gay bathhouse orgy’ acquitted
A Cairo misdemeanor appeals court reversed on Tuesday a six-month prison sentence previously handed to an Egyptian journalist who had reported “a gay bathhouse orgy” to the police in late 2014. The court acquitted female journalist Mona Iraqi of charges of defamation and “publishing false information” in the case known in Egyptian media as the “Ramses Bathhouse” case. Iraqi sparked controversy when she filmed a police raid on a men’s bath house after tipping off police about the “practice of homosexuality” inside the bathhouse. Tarek al-Awady, a lawyer representing the Ramses Bathhouse victims, stated that he did not understand the court’s decision. “They still haven’t published the reasoning for the court’s decision. There were many legal reasons to sentence her to six months in the first decision. We can take the appropriate steps once we get the reasoning,” he told Mada Masr. He also said they plan to appeal the ruling. [Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 1/19/2016]

Court renews detention of three activists investigated for “calling for January 25 protests”
Abdeen Court issued a 15-day renewal of the detention orders of activist and NGO worker Ahmed Hassan, student Hossam Hamad, and head of the Freedoms Committee at the Doctors’ Syndicate, Taher Mokhtar on Sunday. The three were arrested from their respective houses in downtown Cairo Thursday afternoon, according to their lawyer Mokhtar Mounir. Subsequently, they were referred to prosecution on Friday, where they were accused of “possessing leaflets calling for the fall of the regime,” according to the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE). AFTE reported that among the personal items confiscated during the arrests of the three activists were computers, laptops, mobile phones, papers belonging to protest groups and awareness campaigns, and banners with the words “military coup” on them. Homeland security claimed that the detained individuals were attempting to incite citizens to join protests on January 25. [DNE, Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, 1/16/2016]

Also of Interest:

  • Court adjourns Morsi and 24 codefendants’ trial for “insulting the judiciary” to February 18 | Aswat Masriya
  • Court postpones hearing Geneina’s testimony in Zind’s lawsuit | DNE
  • Prosecution detains officers accused of assisting prison escape | DNE
  • Court cancels publication ban in 2012 presidential election rigging case | AMAY


China to lend Egypt’s Central Bank $1 billion during presidential visit
China is expected to lend the Central Bank of Egypt $1 billion to help shore up its foreign reserves during a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping this week, Egypt’s Ambassador to Beijing Magdi Amer said Sunday. Al Masry Al Youm quoted a banking source as saying that China would lend Egypt $1.5 billion. Egypt and China are expected to discuss potential Chinese investments in various Egyptian projects during the visit, including a planned new administrative capital. Amer said China would also sign a $700 million agreement with the state-owned National Bank of Egypt to provide a line of credit to finance future projects as well as a $100 million loan agreement with Banque Misr aimed at financing small and medium-sized projects. Meanwhile, Minister of International Cooperation Sahar Nasr said Egypt is in negotiations with the Export and Import Bank of China to secure a $15 billion financing package for foreign exchange reserves support and projects in energy, transport and sanitation. Nasr said a separate deal would be announced with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank once Egypt’s membership in the bank is ratified. [Reuters, 1/18/2016]

Egypt plans to sell shares in state-owned companies 
Egypt plans to list shares in state-owned bank and companies on the stock market, in a move aimed at jumpstarting investment and boosting economic growth. “The coming period will witness offerings of parts of the capital of successful Egyptian companies and banks on the bourse,” Presidential Spokesman Alaa Youssef said. The statement follows a meeting between President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and ministers to discuss the stock market’s decline. The country’s benchmark index, the EGX 30, has fallen 15 percent since the start of 2016. Central Bank Governor Tarek Amer said the offerings would not include the National Bank of Egypt and Banque Misr. He added that the central bank may offer a stake in one of its ventures to a strategic investor. [Reuters, 1/19/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt gets $1.5 billion in FDI during Q1 of 2015/16, expects to see see more later in year | Ahram Online
  • Moody’s says Egypt’s regulations for SMEs are positive for economy, negative for banks | Ahram Online
  • Moody’s praises Egypt’s new measures to limit consumer loans | Ahram Online
  • Minister says Egypt’s tourism sector losing EGP 2.2 billion per month | Ahram Online, Egypt Independent
  • Egypt to connect 1.2 million homes with natural gas in FY2016-17 | Amwal Al Ghad
  • Egypt’s Investment Minister says raising cap on dollar deposits is unlikely | DNE
  • Egypt to hold international tender for 11 oil and gas blocks | Reuters
  • Egypt reveals five year plan for oil sector | DNE


NCHR says 121 Egyptians thought to be victims of ‘forced disappearance’ located
The National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) said Monday the Interior Ministry informed it of the whereabouts of a number of Egyptians who had been missing in recent months, following widespread public complaints of forced disappearances. The semi-governmental council said in a statement that it has learned from a ministry report the whereabouts of 118 out of 191 people listed in a complaint recently filed with the ministry regarding forced disappearances. According to the NCHR statement, 15 have been released, 99 are facing charges, three are considered fugitives, and one individual has been labeled a runaway. Three others were said to have been located by the NCHR itself. Major General Abo-Bakr Abdel-Karim, Assistant Interior Minister for Public Relations and Media, meanwhile said Friday, that some Egyptian activists reported by their families to have disappeared have in fact joined terror groups. [Ahram Online, AMAY, Aswat Masriya, 1/18/2016]

Ahmed Moussa slams Press Syndicate after referral to disciplinary board for slander
A Press Syndicate disciplinary committee started an investigation on Monday into TV host Ahmed Moussa, who is accused of violating journalistic ethics by publishing alleged photos of Egyptian director and parliamentarian Khaled Youssef with a naked woman. The syndicate’s high board voted for disciplinary action in December against Moussa. The vote came after some 150 journalists signed a complaint letter accusing Moussa of misusing his media channel to “insult people and invade their personal lives,” demanding that he be questioned and banned from appearing on screen. Youssef denied that these pictures, in which the faces of the couple were blurred, were of him. In response, Moussa resorted once again to his TV show, casting doubt on the political allegiance of the Press Syndicate. On Monday, Moussa told his viewers that the syndicate is being “manipulated by a political current, one that is not different from the Muslim Brotherhood.” In a separate statement, Moussa warned that activists planning protests on the fifth anniversary of the 2011 uprising on January 25 will end up either in jail or dead. [Ahram Online Mada Masr, 1/19/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Egyptian rights group condemns student sexual harassment of teacher | Ahram Online
  • Grand Imam says Al-Azhar facing ‘smear campaign’ from critics | Ahram Online
  • ‘I participated in January revolution’ tops Twitter trends in Egypt | Ahram Online, Egypt Independent
  • Social media backlash continues against Judge Nagy Shehata | DNE
  • NGOs say security is determined to close public spaces | DNE


Explosions in Giza, North Sinai, no casualties
An IED exploded behind a traffic checkpoint above the Ring Road in Giza late Sunday, the Interior Ministry announced. The explosion left no casualties and bomb squads combed the area for more devices, the ministry said. Unknown assailants also planted two explosive devices in North Sinai’s al-Arish that went off as two security vehicles were driving by. No injuries were recorded. The bombs caused damage to the facades of surrounding buildings as well as shattering windows, eyewitnesses said. [AMAY, Ahram Online, 1/18/2016]

Also of Interest
Egypt’s civil protection authority puts out fire at Cairo International Airport | Ahram Online


CIA head meets Sisi, Interior Minister in Cairo
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met Sunday with CIA Director John Brennan to discuss regional developments and terrorism.   The meeting was held in the attendance of Egyptian General Intelligence Director Khaled Fawzy and US Ambassador to Egypt Robert Stephen Beecroft. State news agency MENA reported that Brennan affirmed Egypt’s regional and international role, expressing US interest in knowing Egypt’s views regarding current regional affairs and ways to settle Middle East crises. During the meeting, Sisi reportedly underlined the Egyptian army’s efforts to combat terrorism in North Sinai. The president said that terrorism is limited in reach in the governorate, not exceeding one percent of North Sinai’s total area. According to the report, Brennan also congratulated Sisi on fulfilling the last step of the 2013 political roadmap, implemented following Mohamed Morsi’s ouster, with the inauguration of a new parliament last week. On Monday, Brennan met with Interior Minister Magdy Abdel-Ghafar where they reportedly discussed terrorism domestically and internationally. The duo discussed the activities of militant groups regionally, especially the ISIS group, according to MENA. [Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, DNE, 1/19/2016]

British MPs recommend resumption of flights to Sharm
During their visit to Cairo on Sunday, a delegation of members of the British House of Commons and the House of Lords affirmed they would recommend the resumption of British air flights to Sharm al-Sheikh upon their return to the UK, Egyptian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said in a statement. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry received the joint delegation comprised of representatives of the ruling Conservative Party in the context of the latter’s visit to Cairo, following the formation of the Egyptian parliament. The spokesman added that the delegation acknowledged the significance of the tourist sector to the Egyptian economy, and sought to overcome the difficulties that may have affected Egyptian-British relations recently. [Aswat Masriya, 1/18/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Egyptian captives in Libya to arrive in Cairo Tuesday| Ahram Online, AMAY
  • Chinese President to arrive in Cairo Wednesday, Luxor Thursday | Ahram Online
  • Deputy Foreign Minister says China will adopt fair stance on Middle East conflicts | DNE
  • Swiss AG says Mubarak funds will be returned to Egypt only if proven to be illicit gains| Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, AFP
  • Irrigation Minister says Egypt will not allow its water resources to be put at risk | Ahram Online
  • Egypt strongly condemns Burkina Faso militant attack | Ahram Online, DNE
  • Shoukry to meet Libyan Foreign Minister Monday | DNE
  • Arab League Secretary Araby, Shoukry discuss latest regional developments | SIS