Top News: Rights Activist, Journalist Hossam Bahgat Detained Four Days on Charges of “Publishing False News”

Military Prosecution ordered the detention of investigative journalist and rights activist Hossam Bahgat for four days on Monday, pending investigation into charges of publishing false news that harms national interests and disseminating information that disturbs public peace. Bahgat received a summons from Military Intelligence at his home in Alexandria on Thursday and arrived at Military Intelligence headquarters in Nasr City at 9 am on Sunday. In accordance with standard procedures, he was not allowed to enter with his phone or be accompanied by a lawyer according to Mada Masr, the website for which Bahgat is a regular contributor. After several hours with Military Intelligence, Bahgat was transferred to Military Prosecution, where he was held overnight before the decision to detain him was issued. According to Heba Morayef, Associate Director at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), the military prosecutor refused to tell Bahgat’s lawyers on Monday where he is being detained. His current whereabouts are unknown. Bahgat has been charged with violating Articles 102 and 188 of the Penal Code. Article 102 stipulates an unspecified prison sentence and a fine of between EGP50–200 for deliberately broadcasting false information that disturbs public security, incites public panic, and harms public interest. 188 stipulates a maximum one-year sentence and/or a EGP5,000–20,000 fine, for involuntarily disseminating false information or forged documents, or falsely attributing sources, that disturbs public order, incites public panic, and harms public interest. In a statement, Amnesty International said Bahgat’s interrogation “is a clear signal of the Egyptian authorities’ resolve to continue with their ferocious onslaught against independent journalism and civil society.” The Committee to Protect Journalists called on authorities to immediately release Bahgat in its statement. Bahgat, who founded EIPR, writes a daily press review for Mada Masr as well as investigative pieces, the latest of which detailed the alleged secret military trial of twenty-six army officers accused of plotting a coup. [Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, The Guardian, Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, DNE, AP, Reuters, 11/9/2015]


Three Nour Party candidates withdraw from parliamentary elections
Three candidates belonging to the Salafist Nour party announced they withdrew from elections, two of which were in the el-Wasti and Bandar constituencies in Beni Suef, in which the elections will be repeated in the next days due to the rulings of the administrative judiciary that annulled the results of the first round. The third candidate was to compete in the second electoral phase in Mahalla, Gharbiya. Several reasons were given for the withdrawals, according to statements by the party’s leaders and sources. One reason given was that the party wishes to put their resources behind select candidates in order to ensure their success, while other candidates were not satisfied with the electoral process and the nature of the competition. Additionally, the party began contacting prominent Salafist figures, whom they claim are responsible for their losses in the first phase due to lack of support, in an attempt to gain the necessary support and votes in the second phase of the elections. These efforts coincide with reports that winning Nour candidates revealed their intent not to interact with female parliament employees who don’t wear the niqab. During their visit to parliamentary headquarters last week to obtain their parliamentary membership cards, the Nour MPs refused to shake hands with female employees and stipulated that they did not wish to be interviewed by them. Mohamed Salah Khalifa, one of the winning Nour candidates said, “This is part of our ideology.” Meanwhile, Khaled al-Sadr, the Secretary General of the House of Representatives told reporters on Saturday that parliamentary staff will test a newly-installed electronic voting system on Sunday. The new digital voting system, which includes smart cards that will be given to each MP, is meant to speed up and improve the voting process for laws and motions by doing away with the prior system that required either a show of hands or the MP to stand up to show approval or rejection. [DNE, 11/8/2015]


Newspaper owner and son detained four days on charges of illegal weapons possession
An Egyptian businessman and co-owner of Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt’s largest independent daily newspaper, and his son are being detained for four days for questioning over the alleged possession of unlicensed firearms, state-run Al-Ahram reported Sunday. Salah Diab and his son Tawfik were arrested on Sunday, following a decision by the public funds prosecution Saturday to freeze the newspaper owner’s personal assets. Public Funds Prosecutor Ahmed Bahrawi said previously that this was a temporary decision that also included real estate tycoon Mahmoud al-Gammal and former Giza governor Yehia Saad. Diab was accused of seizing vast areas of state land at less than their real value. Diab’s lawyer Farid al-Deeb said that his client’s arrest and that of his son had nothing to do with the corruption probe launched against his client. Businessmen and the media have largely condemned Diab’s arrest. [Ahram Online, DNE, AMAY, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 11/8/2015]

State news agency says Esraa al-Taweel confessed to assassination plot
Detained student Esraa al-Taweel has allegedly confessed to conspiring to assassinate an unidentified official in a suicide mission, the state-owned Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported Monday. Taweel reportedly told the prosecution that she began working with members of the Muslim Brotherhood on the plot following the violent dispersal of the 2013 Raba’a al-Adaweya sit-in. MENA claimed that Taweel confessed to participating in several Muslim Brotherhood protests following the Raba’a dispersal, and conspiring to assassinate a top official to avenge the death of her friend Asmaa al-Beltagy, who was killed at Raba’a. Taweel’s lawyer, Taher Abul Nasr, however, denied these reports, saying that his client did not confess during the hearings he attended. In her last appearance in court earlier this month, Taweel vehemently denied the charges against her after a judge renewed her pre-trial detention for another forty-five days. [Mada Masr, Shorouk (Arabic), 11/9/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Egyptian man sentenced to life in prison for torching church in 2013 | Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya
  • Cairo court sentences ‘mall harasser’ to one month in prison | Ahram Online, DNE
  • Court postpones retrial of eleven defendants accused of murdering Kerdasa police officer | DNE
  • Mass trial for ‘revolutionary activists’ adjourned to December 7 | DNE
  • Pro-Esraa El-Taweel activist released pending investigations | DNE
  • Morsi espionage trial adjourned to November 26 | AMAY
  • Lawyers’ Syndicate re-elects incumbent Sameh Ashour as chief | AMAY
  • Brotherhood supreme guide Badie granted retrial after appealing life in prison | Aswat Masriya


Egypt state banks launch products with 12.5 percent interest rate to support pound
Egypt’s two largest state banks have launched savings certificates for the Egyptian pound with an interest rate of 12.5 percent in order to support the currency, local media and bankers said on Sunday. A Cairo-based banker said the increase is significant as the average interest rate at Egyptian banks is currently about 10 percent. He said the decision aims to “support the pound and take pressure off foreign currencies.” He noted that the central bank will have to hike interest rates in its next meeting, “otherwise these banks will be under pressure with very low margins.” An official from Banque Misr also said that the launch of the certificate is a preemptive step before raising interest rates. He said he expects other banks to follow suit and raise their interest rates. Meanwhile, yields on five-year and ten-year Egyptian treasury bonds rose marginally at an auction on Monday. [Reuters, 11/8/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Egyptian government to put VAT law to new parliament | Ahram Online
  • Egypt’s stocks plunge by mid-day trading | Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya
  • Egypt’s tourism revenue drops 15 percent in 3Q 2015 | Egypt Independent
  • Russian plane crash could hamper tourism recovery in Egypt: Tourism chamber head | Ahram Online
  • Egypt state banks launch products with 12.5 percent interest rate to support pound |Reuters, DNE
  • Egypt ranks 110th out of 142 countries on Prosperity Index | Egypt Independent
  • Egypt’s GASC to provide imported wheat to private sector | Reuters
  • Jet crash seen adding to pressure on Egypt to devalue pound | Bloomberg
  • British investments in Egypt expected to rise | SIS


Eleven dead, twenty-four injured after two buildings collapse in Egypt’s Fayoum  
The collapse of two adjacent buildings early on Sunday in the al-Sufi district of Fayoum city, south of Cairo, left eleven dead and twenty-four others injured. The buildings collapsed after the owner of one of the buildings, an empty property, used an excavator as part of a construction project that accidentally led to the collapse of one building on to the other which, in turn, instantly collapsed. The head of the ambulance authority in Fayoum, Sameh Mohamed, told Al-Ahram on Sunday that multiple children, including two boys aged seven and two, were among the casualties. Building collapses are commonplace in Egypt and are usually due to violations of building specifications, illegal extensions, and lax construction. Fayoum governor Wael Makram ordered the provision of the necessary care for the injured and for the arrest of both the land-owner and the bulldozer driver, who are accused of illegal construction without a license. Efforts are underway to form a committee, including professors from the Faculty of Architecture in Fayoum University, to restore the surrounding buildings damaged in the collapse. [Ahram Online, DNE, 11/9/2015]

Also of Interest

  • I will not take blood money says mother of Egyptian killed in Kuwait | AMAY
  • Bassem Youssef: Egypt’s answer to Jon Stewart on the pressure on TV satirists | The Guardian
  • Egypt to add 4,000 km to roads network in 2016 | DNE
  • Supply ministry tops corruption report for third consecutive month | DNE
  • Hospitals with no equipment for preventing viruses should not operate says Al-Taher | DNE
  • Doctors’ Syndicate criticizes Health Ministry report on doctor’s death | DNE
  • Student nurses arrested for protesting lack of state recognition and jobs | Mada Masr
  • Police disperse employment seekers’ protests outside cabinet | AMAY
  • Dozens gather in Qaliubiya village following death of conscript | DNE
  • Travel advisories to Egypt a blow to tourism | AMAY
  • Immigration Minister urges Egyptian expats to spend vacation in Egypt | AMAY
  • Social media users, artists launch campaigns to support Sharm al-Sheikh tourism | AMAY


Egypt says Islamic State militant killed in Cairo shootout
Egypt’s Interior Ministry announced that it had killed a top commander of the Sinai State terrorist group, an affiliate of the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) during a raid in Cairo. In the statement, released Monday by the official Ministry of Interior Spokesman, it was announced that the militant Ashraf Ali Gharabli died in a firefight that erupted when police tried to arrest him on Sunday in Cairo’s al-Marg district. Gharabli had been previously implicated in a number of terrorist attacks, including the beheading of a Croatian engineer in August, the killing of an American oil worker in December 2014, and the July bombing of the Italian Consulate in Cairo that killed one person and wounded at least ten. [DNE, AP, Reuters, 11/9/2015]

Brotherhood members arrested for blocking sewage pipes in Alexandria says Interior Ministry
The Interior Ministry declared in a statement on Friday that it has apprehended an alleged Muslim Brotherhood terrorist cell on charges of sabotaging sewage systems, and other acts of vandalism in Alexandria. The alleged seventeen member cell supposedly blocked the city’s drains with cement, according to the ministry, causing severe drainage issues. One suspect was photographed by the ministry sitting next to a drain holding a stick. The suspects were also accused of destroying electricity generators and burning garbage with the aim of “causing a crisis in the governorate and creating a state of public exasperation from the current regime.” Other accusations included planting bombs in different areas within the city, according to investigations conducted by the National Security Agency. Human rights activists strongly condemned the Interior Ministry report. Meanwhile, following a visit to Alexandria, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordered the allocation of EGP1 billion for the development of the sewage system in Alexandria and Beheira. During his visit, hundreds of hospital patients were stranded and transferred to other hospitals after water trucks failed to absorb the flooded waters, while citizens in other parts of the city were struggling to find food or go to school. The Strong Egypt Party issued several statements criticizing the government’s response to the floods, while state TV anchor, Azza al-Henawy, was suspended Sunday and referred to investigations after criticizing the official response to the flood crisis. Meanwhile, the death toll in Beheira following the heavy rainfall and floods has reached twenty-five, while Alexandria was hit with a third round of heavy rain after midnight on Sunday. [Ahram Online, Mada Masr, DNE, 11/9/2015]

Also of Interest

  • 131 Egyptians arrested attempting to cross into Libya | DNE
  • Two dozen Gaza tunnels destroyed in October says Egyptian army | Andolu


Investigators ’90 percent sure’ bomb downed Russian plane
Investigators of the Russian plane crash in Egypt are “90 percent sure” the noise heard in the final second of a cockpit recording was an explosion caused by a bomb, a member of the investigation team told Reuters on Sunday. “The indications and analysis so far of the sound on the black box indicate it was a bomb,” said the Egyptian investigation team member, who asked not to be named due to sensitivities. A US official also said it’s 99.9 percent certain that the passenger jet was brought down by a bomb. British and US spies intercepted “chatter” from suspected militants and at least one other government suggesting that a bomb was possibly hidden in luggage in the hold. Ayman al-Moqadem, a pilot and the head of the Egypt-led investigative committee, however said in a press conference Saturday the Russian aircraft flying on autopilot and appeared to break up in mid-air after a sudden noise, but that it is too soon to conclude exactly what brought it down. “We have still not collected all the information that will be used to make an analysis,” he added. Egyptian authorities are checking cameras at Sharm al-Sheikh airport for any suspicious activity related to the crash, while Russian aviation authorities and security services will check Egyptian airports and “make recommendations,” the Russian Deputy Prime Minister told Russian news agency Interfax on Sunday. Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Saturday that foreign countries have not shared intelligence with Cairo about the crash, while Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that London has passed on to Moscow “certain information,” without going into detail. Peskov also said Friday that the decision to suspend flights to Egypt does not mean the crash was caused by a terrorist attack. Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in a phone conversation with Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Friday to keep cooperating on flight safety, the Kremlin said. Egyptian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid as well as UK’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, meanwhile, dismissed allegations made by the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper that a British passenger plane dodged a rocket as it approached Sharm al-Sheikh in August. [Reuters, Ahram Online, Mada Masr, 11/9/2015]

Russia, Britain ramp up efforts to return tourists in Sharm al-Sheikh
On Sunday, Russia had returned 11,000 of its tourists from Egypt in response to the plane crash in the Sinai Peninsula a week ago, RIA news agency said, but tens of thousands more are waiting for flights home. RIA cited Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich as saying that Egypt’s military has taken control of operations to put Russian passengers on flights back to Moscow after Russia suspended flights to Egypt. Meanwhile, the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency said Russia will send forty-four planes to repatriate its nationals, with the process expected to take a fortnight. Britain has also started flying out the 20,000 people thought to be in Sharm al-Sheikh, but officials warned the repatriation process could take up to ten days. Eleven empty British airliners are on standby in Cyprus and might be used to fly the tourists home. The UK is not evacuating British holidaymakers in Egypt but rather assisting them to return home at the end of their holidays, the British embassy said in a statement on Saturday. [Reuters, AP, AFP, The Guardian, 11/9/2015]

UN Egyptian delegation responds to EU human rights report
The Egyptian delegation in the United Nations published a statement rejecting the report released by the European Union about human right conditions in Egypt, according to a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Egypt’s permanent representative in the UN Amr Aboul Atta responded to the EU report by saying that Egypt respects the law as it confronts terrorism, and it guarantees individuals their right to protest and establish human rights organizations, in accordance with Articles 73 and 74 of the Egyptian constitution. Aboul Atta also said that the number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) increased from 26,000 to 47,000 during the past five years and that security forces only arrest demonstrators, journalists, and activists when they are accused of committing violations against the law and are then are sent to the prosecution and courts for trials. The statement also added that some civilians were released due to presidential pardons, in spite of issued sentences against them. Aboul Atta also called out Germany, France, and Holland for their own human rights violations, saying that they have no right to criticize Egypt’s human rights record. [DNE, 11/8/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Two Egyptian nationals stabbed in Amman | Ahram Online, DNE, AMAY
  • Egypt’s Sisi returns to Cairo following London meetings with Cameron | Ahram Online
  • Sisi to meet Mahmoud Abbas | DNE
  • Abbas, Shoukry discuss humanitarian situation in Palestine | DNE
  • Vienna talks basis for discussion between Shoukry and Syrian opposition delegation | DNE
  • Tourism, Muslim Brotherhood pressure Egypt-UK relations | DNE
  • Our governments have to protect us, it’s our right to enjoy Sharm al-Sheikh according to tourists | DNE
  • Tripartite GERD negotiations continue in ministerial-level conference in Cairo | DNE
  • Egypt receives three bodies of Egyptians from Jordan floods | AMAY
  • Negotiations over Renaissance Dam tech studies a success says Minister | AMAY
  • Ethiopia adamant to continue construction on controversial dam | AMAY