Top News: Police Say Murdered Italian Student’s Bag Found with Gang

Egypt’s Interior Ministry said in a statement Thursday that security forces had retrieved a bag and passport belonging to murdered Italian student Giulio Regeni that was in the possession of a criminal gang impersonating policemen who had been killed in a shootout. The Interior Ministry said that a red handbag bearing the Italian flag was found, and inside it was Regeni’s passport and other items such as a visa card, two cell phones, a “feminine wallet” with the word love on it, and a dark substance resembling hashish. “A highly skilled investigation team was formed to uncover the mystery of several reported forced robberies and incidents of impersonating police officers,” the ministry said in a statement. The ministry added that the gang had robbed several Egyptians, as well as a Nigerian, a Portuguese man, and an Italian. Italian politicians and state media cast doubt Friday on Egypt’s claims with former Premier Enrico Letta tweeting, “I’m sorry, I don’t buy it.” While Italy’s state-run RAI questioned the Egyptian scenario and demanded the truth, there was no official Italian response. Prior to the Interior Ministry statement, local media had published a slew of articles linking the suspects to Regeni’s murder but the public prosecution denied any correlation according to privately-owned newspaper Al-Shorouk. [Ahram Online, DNE, Reuters, 3/25/2016]


Egypt’s cabinet approves bill facilitating industrial project permits
Egypt’s cabinet approved a bill on Thursday that would ease the issuing of permits for new industrial projects by reducing the registration period, the Ministry of Industry and Foreign Trade announced in a press release. The new bill would allow applicants for an industrial facility permit to operate after notifying the relevant administrative authority, with the exception of projects with high risk to the environment. According to ministry head Tarek Qabil, the new law would simplify procedures for issuing industrial licenses and remove red tape. “The proposed law would address the issues of granting operating licenses, such as delays, which is a major deterrent to foreign investment,” Qabil said, adding that “the new draft law will reduce the current duration of issuing licenses, from 634 days to just 30 days, which represents a significant administrative revolution in the investment climate in Egypt.” He also explained that the law would contribute to the activation of the Central Bank of Egypt’s (CBE) initiative to provide EGP 200 billion for financing SMEs and enable these entities to benefit from available concessional financing. The draft law will be submitted shortly to the parliament for discussion, Qabil added.  [Ahram Online, DNE, 3/24/2016].

Also of Interest

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Six police referred to trial for death of detainee in 2012 torture case
Six policemen were referred to court on Thursday for torturing a man who was wrongfully imprisoned in late 2012, according to a statement from the al-Haqanya Foundation of Rights and Freedoms. The case against two police officers and four conscripts from Giza police station was dismissed three times before the prosecution officially referred it to court. Saad Saeed, a 25-year-old accountant from Moneib district of Giza was wrongfully arrested in December 2012, when a suspect escaped a police raid through his home. Saeed became involved in an altercation with a police officer who attempted to assault his father, according to al-Haqanya. Saeed was later arrested and taken into custody at Giza police station, where he was severely beaten and referred to prosecution. Despite the prosecution’s subsequent referral to forensics to check Saeed’s injuries, police refused to transfer him. Saeed died in police custody a day after his arrest, according to a statement by the National Committee to Defend Rights and Freedoms. [Mada Masr, 3/24/2016]

Assets freeze for rights defenders in foreign-funding case postponed to April 20
The Cairo Criminal Court has postponed its decision regarding a request to freeze the assets of human rights defenders Hossam Bahgat, Gamal Eid and two others to April 20. The decision to freeze the activists’ assets came as an investigation was reopened into the NGO foreign-funding case last week. During the court session, Bahgat was asked about a company called the Initiative Company for Legal Consultancy. He explained the company doesn’t fall under the NGO law and is officially registered with the investments authority. When asked about the company’s activities, Bahgat explained that it mostly conducts research on social, legal, and public policy matters, and presents recommendations to the government. Bahgat demanded the asset freeze ruling be revoked unless clear charges are presented against him. “It was clear that the case is political from today’s hearing,” Eid told Mada Masr. “I am concerned about the questions Bahgat was asked. The questions directed at me were more centered on my bank account, which is the subject of this case. There is a legal impasse for them now, either they deny the asset freeze request of the investigative judge or postpone the case until we are officially summoned and there is evidence against us,” Eid said. Commenting before the session, Bahgat said the progression of the case has been strange. “We faced asset freezes and travel bans before being officially summoned,” he explained. [Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, Cairo Post, 3/25/2016]

Egypt fails to secure April LNG shipments
Egypt’s state-owned EGAS has so far failed to fill a tender to buy two liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipments due in April, trade sources said. EGAS launched a tender last week that was only open to some of its existing suppliers for the delivery of one cargo in April 1-7 and another in April 27-28. Traders said the first delivery window was difficult to arrange given the short notice period. For the late-April cargo, EGAS lined up commodity trader Trafigura as the supplier, but the deal ran into difficulties after EGAS tried to shift delivery to mid-April. As of Thursday, the slots have still not been filled, however EGAS is still in talks with potential suppliers. [Reuters, 3/25/2016]


  • Egypt stocks rise for second day after cabinet reshuffle | Ahram Online
  • Egypt’s trade deficit falls 5 percent in December | Ahram Online
  • Supply Minister says Egypt has enough strategic wheat reserves to last until first week of July | Reuters
  • Egypt targets 5.2 percent growth for FY 2016/17 | Ahram Online


‘Sudden’ venue cancellation postpones Egypt’s Doctors Syndicate assembly to April 8
Egypt’s Doctors Syndicate postponed on Thursday its general assembly meeting to April 8 after the venue, Qasr al-Aini Hospital, sent them a “sudden formal apology stating they can’t hold the event for maintenance reasons,” a syndicate statement read. The statement explained that the syndicate reserved and fully paid for a conference room in Downtown Cairo’s Qasr al-Aini Hospital for a general assembly meeting on March 25. However, the hospital said 24 hours prior to the meeting that they could no longer hold the event for “maintenance reasons.” In order for the syndicate to hold a meeting, they have to notify members two weeks in advance, and so the meeting could not be relocated. [Ahram Online, 3/25/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Blasphemy cases rise in Egypt and Christians bear the brunt | AP
  • Egyptian state takes on independent trade unions | Al Monitor


Spokesperson says army destroyed North Sinai militant hideouts
Egypt’s army destroyed a number of militant hideouts in troubled North Sinai’s Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid cities in raids on Friday morning, Armed Forces Spokesman Mohamed Samir said in a statement. The army executed the offensive based on information about the hideout locations, Samir’s statement said. The offensive was “retribution for the blood of the martyrs of the army, police and innocent citizens.” The army did not provide details about the number of militants killed, but Sky News Arabia’s reporter in Sinai said the army had killed 60 militants and injured 40 others. [Ahram Online, 3/25/2016]


Foreign Ministry fires back at international condemnation of NGO case
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry criticized on Thursday statements by “foreign officials” made over the reopening of investigations into several Egyptian NGOs for allegedly receiving funds illegally from foreign governments and institutions. In an official statement, the Foreign Ministry said that the comments were characterized by “distorted  generalizations to accuse the Egyptian government of stifling the freedom of civil society organizations in Egypt in their work, without providing any tangible evidence to support these claims.” On Wednesday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement in which he “reiterated his support for the important work of Egyptian human rights organizations in promoting and implementing universal principles and standards of human rights,” following a meeting with Bahey Eldin Hassan, the director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS). According to a CIHRS statement, Ban and Hassan discussed the UN’s responsibility towards the continuing deterioration of human rights in Egypt. The statement added that Hassan met with US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power. [Ahram Online, SIS, Mada Masr, 3/24/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Sahel-Saharan countries agree to form terrorism-combat unit with HQ in Egypt | Ahram Online, DNE, SIS, Cairo Post
  • Egypt to participate in 2016 Nuclear Security Summit | Ahram Online, Cairo Post
  • Egyptian official rejects presence of Russian security experts at airports | Egypt Independent
  • UN rights body approves Egypt’s draft resolution on terrorism | SIS