Top News: Saudi Cables Suggest Links with Egyptian Media

Saudi diplomatic correspondence published by WikiLeaks shows Saudi officials offered or denied free trips to the kingdom to secure allies in the media or to punish those the government deemed critical, among them several Egyptian journalists. Prominent Egyptian TV talk show host, Wael al-Ebrashi, was dropped from a list of top Egyptian media figures treated to an all-expenses-paid trip to Saudi Arabia because of “his repeated, unjustified attacks on the kingdom,” according to one cable from Prince Saud.
In Egypt, the Saudi ambassador protested to Naguib Sawiris, founder of the privately owned ONTV network, over the appearance of a Saudi dissident, Saad al-Faqih, on one of its talk shows, according to a cable from Prince Saud. The station said it would not invite Faqih again and asked the ambassador to appear on the program at a later date. Asked by the AP if the correspondence was in response to a Saudi complaint to the station. Sawiris said: “Not to my knowledge.” In another cable, Mustafa Bakry, a prominent Egyptian journalist and former lawmaker, was said to have requested Saudi funds to start a daily newspaper and a TV station to counter what he contended were Iranian attempts to woo Egyptian journalists. In comments published in a Cairo newspaper, Bakry said the claim was baseless. Meanwhile, Mada Masr signed a Memorandum of Understanding with WikiLeaks on Tuesday, gaining exclusive access to over 100,000 classified, unreleased documents from the latest series of Saudi Cables. [AP, 6/24/2015]


State Council approves reconciliation in illicit gains crimes
The State Council has approved a draft amendment to provisions in Egypt’s illicit gains law. The law has been sent to the cabinet for approval. The amendments provide for a possibility of reconciliation, on the condition that the suspect returns all illicitly obtained gains. The amendments also allow investigative authorities to use the seized assets to prevent them from losing value, while granting the profits to the suspect until a final verdict is reached. [Egypt Independent, 6/24/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Sisi calls for establishing a child fund | Ahram Online
  • Off the books: Egypt’s hidden $9.4 billion | DNE
  • Sisi calls for school curricula to combat violence, harassment | Cairo Post
  • Sisi to review state budget | Egypt Independent
  • Salafi Call suggests dialogue with detained Brotherhood sympathizers | Egypt Independent
  • Constitution Party: General political climate behind decline in party membership | Egypt Independent


New blasphemy trial in Egypt for controversial TV host starts Wednesday
A Giza misdemeanor court on Wednesday will begin hearing a case against Egyptian TV presenter Islam al-Beheiry and TV channel owner Tarek Nour over a controversial show about Islam. Beheiry is accused of blasphemy, and already received a five-year sentence in May on similar charges over his show, which was cancelled by the channel. Beheiry, who has appealed the verdict, was released on bail. Up to forty-eight complaints have been filed against Beheiry over his views. [Ahram Online, 6/24/2015]

Egypt court overturns conviction of journalist on slander charges
A Cairo appeals court has overturned the conviction of a TV broadcaster closely linked to the security services for insulting a liberal politician. The court acquitted talk show host Ahmed Moussa, annulling a two-year prison sentence and 30,000 Egyptian pound fine leveled against him last March in a lawsuit filed by Democratic Front Party Head Osama al-Ghazaly Harb. A misdemeanors court had sentenced Moussa to a year in prison and a 10,000 Egyptian pound fine for libel and slander against Harb, and another year and 20,000 Egyptian pound fine for propagating false news. A courtroom scuffle between Moussa supporters and lawyers broke out before Tuesday’s ruling. In statements to Ahram, Harb said that he respects the court’s verdict. [Ahram Online, DNE, AP, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 6/23/2015]

Syrian refugee sentenced to one year prison on charges of debauchery
A Syrian refugee was sentenced to one year in prison on Tuesday on an array of charges related to sexual debauchery after an officer from the Morality Police set up a fake gay hookup date online. The undercover police officer, who was posing as a gay man on social media, chatted with the refugee, arranged to meet him and arrested the man as soon as he arrived on location. The officer later submitted all information, including chat history, to public prosecution, which was used to convict the man. While in custody, the defendant was forced to undergo an anal examination, a controversial practice that authorities claim can prove whether the client engages in anal sex. Though the forensic doctor said the anal examination showed no evidence of gay sex, the defendant was convicted nonetheless for charges including “inciting debauchery,” “solicitation to commit immoral acts in public,” “habitual debauchery” and “debauchery.”  The defendant’s lawyer Ahmed Hossam told Egypt Independent that the undercover officer kept pressuring his client to meet after he bailed multiple times, which he argued shows clear entrapment on the officer’s part. [Egypt Independent, 6/23/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt Justice Minister aims to computerize judicial system | Ahram Online
  • Hisham Talaat Mostafa’s release on medical grounds postponed | DNE
  • Detention extended for 11 arrested following violent January protest | DNE


World Bank releases Spring 2015 Egypt Economic Monitor
The World Bank has issued its Spring 2015 Egypt Economic Monitor, which provides an update on key economic developments and policies over the past six months. The Bank expects annual growth to double to 4.3 percent in FY 2015. Growth could reach 5 percent by FY 2016/2017 if tourism and manufacturing continue to recover. Meanwhile, unemployment has started to slowly decrease, averaging 13 percent in the first half of FY 2015. However, the report warned that Egypt’s budget deficit and debt aggregates “will remain high and unsustainable,” despite the government’s “ambitious fiscal consolidation plan.” The report further cautioned that there is “significant uncertainty regarding the financing of the announced mega-projects.”  [DNE, 6/23/2015]

Sources say government cancelled MoU with Emirati investor on new capital
Unsuccessful negotiations with the Emirati financier responsible for building Egypt’s new capital east of Cairo have reportedly led to the annulment of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) Egypt signed with the company. An informed source, who asked not to be named, told Al Masry al Youm that the government is looking to implement the project, the first phase of which entails an investment of of 45 billion Egyptian pounds, “with a new plan and a new partner.” A “sovereign state body” will take on the feasibility study and blueprints for the project for a year before it is offered in a bidding process to local and international real estate developers, rather than assigning it to one company, the source said. Speaking on the reasons behind the failure of negotiations with Abbar, the source claimed that the latter had “failed to secure financing resources for the project.” [Egypt Independent, 6/24/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt stocks rebound on positive corporate news; Saudi flat | Reuters
  • Egypt’s Qalaa to sell off non-core assets in deals with FHI | Reuters
  • Egypt to double export subsidies | Ahram Online
  • Egypt to establish joint-stock firm for power production units | Ahram Online
  • Egypt to reduce time to offload wheat cargoes to save hard currency | Aswat Masriya


Two journalists in custody on charges of affiliation with Brotherhood
The Supreme State Security Prosecution on Tuesday remanded journalists Farida Ali Ahmed and Samar Hassan Mahmoud in custody for fifteen days pending investigations into their alleged affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood. They were charged with joining an illegal group, assaulting personal freedoms, receiving funds from abroad, and spreading false news and statements to harm national interest and promote terrorism. The journalists were arrested from their homes on February 11 for allegedly broadcasting false information on the Turkey-based pro-Brotherhood satellite channel, Mekameleen. [Egypt Independent, 6/23/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt down twelve ranks in international rule of law index | Egypt Independent
  • Egypt has removed over 4,000 ‘encroachments’ on Nile: Ministry | Ahram Online
  • Ministry of Health shuts twelve unlicensed centers | DNE
  • Ministry of Health suspends operations in ten meat factories | Egypt Independent


Special forces destroy three tunnels in Rafah
Special forces demolished three tunnels in Rafah, North Sinai, Tuesday, informed sources in Rafah said. Two out of the three tunnels were discovered during construction work at the buffer zone of Rafah, and the third, which is 1,100-meters long, was uncovered south of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza. “The digging of a trench adjacent to the border strip between Egypt and Gaza is in progress, and it is scheduled to extend along the border to stop all smugglers’ attempts to construct new secret tunnels,” the sources added. [Cairo Post, 6/23/2015]

Also of Interest


US ambassador to Egypt reportedly lauds police
US ambassador to Egypt Robert Stephen Beecroft on Tuesday reportedly lauded the Egyptian Interior Ministry’s efforts to combat terrorism and maintain stability, while being hosted by Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar. Abdel Ghaffar also praised cooperation with the US concerning security, specifically in providing training programs to security personnel, Ahram Online reported. Beecroft stressed the importance of Egypt’s role in fighting terrorism not only domestically, but also regionally, according to the Ahram Arabic website. [Ahram Online, 6/23/2015]

Egypt’s army receives multipurpose frigate in France
Egypt received a FREMM (European multi purpose frigate) at the port of Lorient in west France on Tuesday, as part of a military deal it had signed with France to upgrade its military force in the face of ongoing regional crises. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves le Drian said the delivery is the “first step” in creating a “unique relationship” between the two states, adding that Paris acknowledges Egypt’s central role in ensuring security in the region. Egypt had secured the purchase of the frigate and two dozen Rafale fighter jets in February. Minister of Defense Sedky Sobhy will witness the handover of the first batch of Rafale jets during his visit, a military source told Aswat Masriya. The frigate is expected to be at the inauguration of the new canal in Egypt’s Suez on August 8. [Ahram Online, Anadolu Agency, Aswat Masriya, 6/23/2015]

Also of Interest

  • 152 Yemenis return home from Cairo | Ahram Online
  • UN Assistant Secretary General to visit Egypt on Thursday | Egypt Independent
  • Rafah Crossing opened for humanitarian purposes | Egypt Independent
  • Over 450 cross into Egypt from Gaza on first day of opening Rafah crossing | Aswat Masriya
  • Russia to sign free trade zone agreement with Egypt | Egypt Independent
  • Al-Jazeera journalist accuses Germany of being manipulated by Egypt | The Guardian, AP
  • Two Egyptians wanted for abduction, killing two Tunisian reporters | Cairo Post
  • Egypt-Libya border arrests 112 attempted to illegally travel to Libya | Cairo Post