Top News: Rights Group Says Violations Against Journalists Doubled in Second Half of 2015

Violations against the press and media personnel in Egypt doubled over the second half of 2015 compared to the first half, according to the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE).  In its semi-annual report released Monday, AFTE’s Media Freedom Program documented 366 violations against journalists and media personnel in the second half of 2015, compared to 172 cases in the first half, marking a 112 per cent increase in violations. Documented violations include preventing coverage, illegal detention, confiscation or breaking of equipment, beatings or causing injury, arbitrary dismissal, arrest, raiding a press institution, raiding homes, and blocking printing of an issue, among others. Security forces were responsible for most violations, followed by the judicial authorities and then government officials, according to the report. In addition, press and media bodies themselves have been accused of violating rights of journalists, media personnel, and writers, totaling 50 of the cases. Meanwhile, detained journalist Abdel Rahman Yakout published a letter on Monday from Wadi al-Natrun prison, providing an account of life in prison. “The prisoner dreams of his sleeping place expanding by a few centimeters, or transferring to another cell with two bathrooms to account for overcrowding,” he said. Yakout was arrested in March 2015 on several charges, included belonging to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, violating rights and freedoms, attempting to overthrow the regime, and protesting without permission. [DNE,Aswat Masriya, 2/3/2016]


Egyptian MP Mostafa Bakry resigns from pro-state majority bloc
Egyptian parliamentarian Mostafa Bakry resigned from the membership of the majority bloc In Support of Egypt on Tuesday. In his resignation letter, which was circulated by a number of media outlets including the privately owned Youm7, Bakry states that he experienced tension with the head of the Support Egypt coalition, Sameh Seif al-Yazal. He also stated that several members of the coalition were  willing to leave with him, but he urged them to stay to prevent divisions within the group. He explained that he was leaving was for the good of the coalition, as his presence was causing ruptures within it. [Ahram Online, AMAY, Mada Masr, 2/2/2016]

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Retrial ordered for 149 accused of police killings in Kerdasa
Egypt’s Cassation Court, headed by Judge Anas Ali Abdallah, has overturned the death sentences and ordered the retrial of 149 defendants previously convicted of killing 11 policemen in Kerdasa in 2013. The court also recommended that the defendants, who include one woman, be retried in a different court circuit. Last February, the Giza Criminal Court, headed by Judge Mohamed Nagy Shehata, sentenced 183 defendants to death, 34 of whom were sentenced in absentia. The 149 defendants who were present for the verdict will be retried on charges of assembling, premeditated murder, attempted murder, possessing unlicensed weapons including heavy weapons, killing eleven policemen from Kerdasa Police Station and two civilians, and dismembering their bodies. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, Cairo Post, AMAY, 2/3/2016]

Endowments Ministry official arrested on charges of fraud
The Director General of Giza’s Endowments Department was arrested Tuesday in the Cairo neighborhood of Dokki on charges of fraud. A contractor in Assiut accused the ministry official of taking EGP 3,000,000 from him through a fraudulent deal. According to investigations, the defendant sold the contractor in Assiut a 5-acre piece of land which he said belonged to the Endowments Ministry and was up for sale. The contractor later discovered that the land was put up for sale by the ministry in an auction. Investigations also revealed that the official is wanted in connection with three other fraud cases. [AMAY, 2/3/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Court releases two policemen charged with rape on bail | DNE
  • Sixteen referred to prosecution over blind football delegation scam | AMAY
  • Judge apologize for slamming justice minister, backtracks from resignation | AMAY

Egypt’s non-oil business activity slows for fourth straight month in January
Business activity in Egypt shrank for the fourth straight month in January, the Emirates NBD Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for Egypt showed, as new export orders tumbled and output declined. PMI for the non-oil private sector slipped to 48 points in January from 48.2 points in December, remaining below the 50-point mark that separates growth from contraction. “January’s survey represents a marginal slowdown from December, with the export sector appearing to be the main source of weakness,” Senior Economist at Emirates NBD Jean-Paul Pigat said. “We expect economic activity to accelerate in the coming months, with our forecast for real GDP growth in FY2015/16 sitting at 3.9 percent,” he added. [Reuters, 2/3/2016]

Also of Interest

  • PMI: Egypt’s non-oil business activity slows for fourth straight month in Jan | Ahram Online, Cairo Post
  • Egypt stocks rebound on Tuesday amid Arab purchases | Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya
  • Egyptian dairy firm Domty plans IPO in March | Reuters
  • Egypt’s agriculture ministry to accept wheat with 0.05 percent ergot | Reuters
  • Moody’s says Saudi Arabia, China aid is credit positive for Egypt | Ahram Online


Ultras respond to Sisi’s call to form panel on Port Said massacre
The Ultras Ahlawy group has responded to a call by Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to oversee the investigations of the 2012 Port Said massacre, which took the lives of 72 football fans. “We can’t be the judge and the jury at the same time in the Port Said massacre trial, but presenting more facts and evidence to the public will help clarify the case and give it a better perspective,” Ultras Ahlawy group said in a Facebook statement on Tuesday. The statement was a response to Sisi’s call for them to oversee investigations of the incident. “The president’s invitation to the group to be part of the investigations is unexpected and shows that he is paying attention, while many media personalities are attacking young people, who are just in love with their club, describing them as terrorists” the Ultras Ahlawy said. “What we need to do is bring charges against top security officials implicated in this massacre, and whose names were mentioned in the prosecution’s investigations. [They should be investigated] whether they participated by planning it or by negligence or by withholding evidence in the case,” the statement added. The president’s call comes following a demonstration by thousands of the group’s members on February 1, the anniversary of the massacre, at the headquarters of Al-Ahly, Egypt’s most popular football club. [Ahram Online, 2/3/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Using foreign funding law against journalist Hisham Gaafar sets dangerous precedent says lawyer | Mada Masr
  • Cairo taxi drivers call for protests and suspension of Uber, Careem | Ahram Online
  • Deported researcher says I won’t be silent about injustice to enter Egypt | Ahram Online
  • Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef to host new digital series in the US | Ahram Online


Police say two militants killed during raid in Cairo suburb
Egyptian security forces killed two suspected Islamist militants during clashes in the upscale Cairo district of Maadi on Wednesday, security sources said. The two men were shot dead by forces during a raid on a house where they were hiding out from authorities in the Hadayek al-Maadi district, south of Cairo, an Interior Ministry official told state news agency MENA. Two police were wounded in the clashes and another two militants escaped with security forces in pursuit, security sources said. They said police had received information that armed militants were in the area. When security forces arrived, the militants opened fire and clashes ensued, the sources said. Weapons and explosives were found nearby, they said. [Ahram Online, AMAY, Reuters, Cairo Post, 2/3/2016]

Five foreign authorities inspected security measures at airport 
The Chairman of Cairo International Airport Company Mohamed Said Mahrous said in a press conference Tuesday that five authorities affiliated with five western companies have inspected the airport’s security measures. Mahrous said a committee from the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency, which visited Egypt earlier, requested inspecting five checkpoints including departures, arrivals, baggage areas, cargo areas, and fences. The outcome of the inspection will be announced next week. German, British and Kazakhstani aviation authorities, as well as a Canadian company on behalf of US aviation, also inspected security measure at the airport. Mahrous also announced the purchase of two explosive detecting devices at a cost of 18 million Euros ($19.6 million) to boost security measures around the airport. He said the devices will be located at outside checkpoints that inspect all vehicles and cars prior to their entry to the airport. He added that the Civil Aviation Ministry signed an agreement with a security company to secure the airport fences at a cost of EGP28 million in the first phase, which includes installing 11 cameras. [AMAY, 2/2/2016]


Egypt Foreign Minister says anti-ISIS coalition undecided on military intervention in Libya
The international coalition combating the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) has not made a decision on whether to intervene militarily in Libya, Egyptian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid said in press statements on Tuesday. The statement came as Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry was in Italy to take part in the Summit of the International Coalition against ISIS, which aims to devise a new strategy for the coalition’s members to combat terrorism in Syria and Iraq. [Ahram Online, 2/2/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Russian, Egyptian officials sign agreements to strengthen economic cooperation | Aswat Masriya
  • Egypt’s committee on Renaissance Dam to finish technical offers report this week | Ahram Online
  • Thirty-five Egyptians detained in Libya released | Ahram Online