Top News: Sinai Expert Detained Fifteen Days for ‘Spreading False News’

An Egyptian researcher and freelance journalist detained upon his return to Egypt is being investigated for spreading false news his lawyers said Tuesday. Arrested in Hurghada on Sunday, Ismail Alexandrani, was transferred to Cairo where he was questioned for eight hours on Tuesday. The Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) said in a statement that Alexandrani was charged with “joining a group established in violation of the law to disrupt the constitution, laws and the work of state institutions and authorities.” He is also charged with promoting the ideas of the unnamed group and “spreading false statements and rumors,” likely to “disturb public peace” and “spread panic.” Journalist Abdelrahman Ayyash said on his Facebook page that Alexandrani, an expert on militants operating in Egypt’s northern Sinai Peninsula, recently gave a presentation in Berlin on the topic. Human Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and fourteen Egyptian rights organizations, including the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, and the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, have called for Alexandrani’s release. [AFP, AP, Aswat Masriya, 12/2/2015]


Endowments Ministry revokes licenses of non-governmental religious institutions
The Endowments Ministry revoked all licenses given to religious institutes and cultural centers that are not administered by the ministry or Al-Azhar, a ministry statement said on Saturday. The ministry also announced the launch of 19 new Islamic culture centers and institutes across the country. Salafis institutions will likely be most affected by the decision, with Al-Dostour private newspaper reporting the closure of 86 religious institutions considered by the authorities to be “hubs of terrorism.” Local media reported that Salafi institutions alone were targeted. According to Al-Dostour, they were accused of insulting Al-Azhar, spreading extremist beliefs and attempting to “change the identity of the Egyptian people.” But Amr Ezzat, a researcher of religious affairs for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), told Mada Masr that the decision applies to all religious institutes and is part of a general initiative by the Endowments Ministry to centralize cultural religious institutes and the messages they spread. [Mada Masr, 12/1/2015]

Cabinet grants public sector employees half-day off amid low voter turnout
The Egyptian government granted public servants nationwide a half day off Wednesday to enable them to vote on the final day of parliamentary elections amid low turnout. Prime Minister Ismail Sherif called on private sector employers to provide facilities for eligible voters to cast their ballots in the final voting phase, the statement added. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was among those casting his ballot in the runoffs, voting in Heliopolis. The Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights Foundation. meanwhile, reported various types of violations on the first day of the second phase runoffs. Violations included candidates’ campaigning in front of polling stations, influencing voters, mobilizing voters in some districts, and bribery. Maat also had positive observations regarding the organization of the electoral process and the efficiency of the security procedures put in place. The relevant bodies and the judges in charge displayed neutrality, except in minor instances, the group said. Fierce competition was reported in the runoffs taking place in the Ain Shams constituency and in North Sinai. [Cairo Post, SIS, 12/2/2015]

Also of Interest

  • New parliament, missing bylaw and the legal labyrinths ahead | Aswat Masriya
  • Parliamentary coalitions legitimate way to replace party majority says expert | DNE
  • Government accused of lobbying against independent trade unions in official bulletin | Egypt Independent
  • Cabinet approves decree on lands of new administrative capital | SIS
  • Cabinet allocates EGP 28 million to avoid flood crisis in Wadi al-Gadid | Cairo Post


Police officer detained fifteen days pending investigation over torture allegations
A police officer accused of torturing a detained pharmacist to death was detained Wednesday for 15 days pending investigation. Pharmacist assistant Afifi Hosni was allegedly tortured to death in Ismailia police station after being arrested from his wife’s pharmacy without a warrant Friday. A forensic report stated that Hosni was killed due to a “bruise on his neck.” More allegations of torture in police stations have surfaced, the latest incident reported to have taken place in a police station in Shubra this past weekend. The Lawyers Syndicate’s Freedom Committee reported that a 16-year-old girl detained on Thursday was released after several days, during which she says she was tortured. She was referred to prosecution on Friday, and ordered released. The police station, however, did not implement the decision, with the committee saying she was released Sunday after a complaint was filed with the Interior Minister. The high school student filed a complaint with the Interior Ministry and the prosecution regarding her treatment as well as the legality of her detention. The office of former presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh has also accused security agents of torturing his private driver. “Mostafa Abdel Ghani was released Monday after he was kidnapped by an unknown security authority,” a statement by Aboul Fotouh’s office said. “The driver was subjected to severe torture during his kidnapping, including electric shocks to sensitive parts of his body, causing him to lose control of speech.” [Cairo Post, 12/2/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt orders retrial in graft case against Mubarak-era prime minister | Reuters


Under new central bank leadership, Egypt repays foreign investors
The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) changed the way it allocated dollars at a foreign exchange auction on Tuesday and sought to reassure markets by repaying foreign investors a backlog of more than $500 million. In the first major move by the bank’s new governor Tarek Amer, the CBE said it had repaid foreign portfolio investors $547.2 million, clearing the entire backlog. “This is a very strong signal about the change in management ideology,” said Senior Economist at CI Capital Hany Farahat. “There has not been an indication of where such sources of funding have come from… It might just be more aggressive use of the reserves available at the bank.” Egypt’s stocks rallied following the payment to foreign investors. The CBE held the Egyptian pound steady at 7.7301 to the dollar at its second official dollar auction under Amer on Tuesday, but caused confusion by supplying some banks with more of their foreign exchange needs than usual and others with nothing at all. Bankers said some banks had bid late in the auction due to uncertainty over whether the CBE would move the exchange rate or hold it steady and had missed out. Others said some banks who bid early were also refused. The CBE said it had changed its “internal allocation process” but gave no details on the changes or whether they would apply to future foreign exchange auctions. [Reuters, Bloomberg, DNE, 12/1/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt drops two places to rank 100th in UN’s ICT development index | Egypt Independent
  • Hotel occupancy rate in Luxor up to 43 percent | MENA
  • Egyptian expats pay EGP 250 million to reserve lands of housing project says minister | AMAY
  • Egyptian steel companies sign GBP 12 million deal with UK | DNE


Facebook page admin arrested for calling for January 25 anniversary protests
The administrator of a Facebook page calling for protests on the fifth anniversary of the 2011 uprising in January has been arrested over charges of inciting violence, the Interior Ministry announced in a statement Wednesday. The 39-year-old ran the ‘Revolution of the Poor’ page, which has more than 22,000 followers. The ministry said the page called for massive protests on January 25, 2016, adding that the suspect, helped by others, ran 20 other pages that mainly promote the ideas of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. [AMAY, 12/2/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Opposition figure Ayman Nour denied entry to Egypt | DNE
  • Immigration Ministry establishes Facebook page | AMAY
  • Alexandria clothing company Vistia employees start strike | AMAY
  • ISIS established for ’ulterior motives’ says Grand Imam | SIS
  • Riham Saeed’s TV comeback incites rage among critics | AMAY
  • Maspero anchor resumes work after suspension over ‘expressing her opinion’ | DNE, Cairo Post


France’s Hollande to visit Egypt next April
French President Francois Hollande will visit Egypt in April, Egyptian Minister of Commerce and Industry Tarek Kabil announced on Tuesday. Speaking to state news agency MENA during his visit to Paris, Kabil also revealed that an official French delegation will visit Egypt in the first quarter of 2016 to prepare for Hollande’s visit to Cairo. During his trip to Paris, Kabil met with France’s Minister of Economy and Digital Industry Emmanuel Macron and Minister of State for Foreign Trade, the Promotion of Tourism, and French Nationals Abroad Matthias Fekl to discuss efforts to revitalize Egypt’s ailing tourism industry. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with Hollande earlier this week during a visit to Paris for the UN climate conference. [Ahram Online, SIS, Cairo Post, 12/2/2015]

Egypt’s Prime Minister in Riyadh, Foreign Minister in Algeria
Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail traveled to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to head the Egyptian delegation to the Egyptian-Saudi Coordination Council, state news agency MENA said. The first meeting of the council will be held later on Wednesday. Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and Defense Minister Prince Mohamed Bin Salman will lead the Saudi delegation. According to official Saudi news agency SPA, the council will discuss a number of economic and military agreements at the meeting. Ismail will leave Saudi Arabia for South Africa on Thursday, where he is set to participate in the Forum on Chinese-African Cooperation to be held in Cape Town. The summit, which hosts leaders of African states, aims to enhance cooperation and mutual understanding between China and Africa. Meanwhile, Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry attended a meeting in Algeria to discuss the situation in Libya with his ministerial counterparts from Libya’s neighboring countries. “This meeting comes at a critical stage after the worrying developments of the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) announcing that they took over Sirte,” Shoukry told MENA. Shoukry added that there is a consensus among the different Libyan factions to solve the conflict, stabilize the country and unite its lands to get the country out of the crisis. Shoukry also called for the Libyan parliament to ratify a political agreement, reached last July, before the end of this year so that they “wouldn’t have to look into alternative plans that might meet resistance from some of the Libyan factions.” [Ahram Online, 12/2/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Trade Minister holds intensive meetings in Paris | SIS
  • Egypt’s Sisi meets with Arab, world leaders on sidelines of climate summit | Ahram Online
  • Sisi returns to Egypt after attending Climate Summit | SIS
  • Egypt, Sudan to schedule meeting to solve Ethiopian dam technical committee crisis | AMAY
  • Egypt named member of ILO Drafting Committee | SIS
  • Two Poland-Sharm flights weekly in February says Tourism Promotion Authority | Cairo Post