Top News: Sinai State Claims Responsibility for Attack on Navy Vessel

The Islamic State’s affiliate in Egypt’s Sinai says it has destroyed an Egyptian navy vessel with a rocket off the strategic peninsula’s Mediterranean coast. The claim of responsibility by the Sinai State, previously known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, was made in a brief statement posted on Twitter accounts known to be linked to the group. The authenticity of the statement could not be immediately verified, but it was accompanied by photos purporting to show what appears to be a rocket flying toward the vessel, a large explosion engulfing most of the boat and then black smoke rising up from the vessel. Egypt’s military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Samir, said in a statement earlier that the vessel caught fire off the coast of Sinai on Thursday after an exchange of gunshots with militants from the shore. According to a statement by Samir, there were no fatalities among the vessel’s crew in the shootout with “terrorists.” Samir did not say how much damage the vessel suffered and gave no details on the type of ship or the size of its crew. However, security officials said an unspecified number of crew members suffered injuries from the fire. [APAhram OnlineEgypt IndependentCairo Post, 7/16/2015]


Egypt’s cabinet alters controversial anti-terror bill
Egypt’s cabinet on Wednesday agreed to amend a controversial article of a draft anti-terror law imposing jail terms on journalists for contradicting the government’s official version of events in cases of terrorist attacks, a government spokesman said. Article 33 threatened a minimum two-year sentence as punishment for “reporting false information on terrorist attacks which contradict official statements.” The cabinet on Wednesday agreed to scrap jail sentences under Article 33, but replaced them with hefty fines of between EGP 200,000 to EGP 500,000 (approximately $26,000 to $66,000), government spokesman Hossam al-Qawish told state news agency MENA. Qawish said the article was cancelled after the cabinet discussed amendments to the draft law proposed by the head of the press syndicate and chief editors of Egyptian newspapers. Despite the changes to the draft law, human rights groups and journalists are still skeptical. The changes, according to the Journalists Syndicate still represent a setback for press freedom, and an alternate method of sending journalists to prison if they can’t afford the fine. Syndicate members vowed to challenge the draft judicially. Meanwhile, Amnesty International’s Said Boumedouha said in a statement Wednesday, “The proposed counter-terrorism law vastly expands the Egyptian authorities’ powers and threatens the most fundamental rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.” The draft is still awaiting final approval from the presidency. [Ahram Online, Reuters,Aswat Masriya, The Guardian, 7/26/2015]    

Egyptian constitution needs time to be effective says Sisi
President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi has said the constitution is great but more time is needed for its goals to be achieved, state news agency MENA reported. There has been debate in society about the constitutionality of several draft laws, as well as current laws, including draft anti-terror legislation. “The anti-terror law is not designed to limit freedoms, but martyrs have been killed and we have to fortify the state to face big challenges,” Sisi said.  He also defended the recently issued law that grants him the right to depose the heads of financial regulatory bodies. He said he was not in a feud with anybody, nor did he seek revenge. [Ahram Online, 7/16/2015]  

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Eighty-three debt prisoners released ahead of Eid al-Fitr
Eighty-three debt prisoners were reportedly released Wednesday ahead of Eid al-Fitr after the Interior Ministry and the presidency settled their debts. Egypt’s prison authority, which operates under the auspices of the Interior Ministry, released forty-one of the debt prisoners after a group of police officers paid off their debts, the ministry said in a statement Wednesday. On a Facebook page, a police officer called for collecting Zakat al-Fitr (charity paid for the poor) from his colleagues to help release those who were jailed for failing to pay off their debts. According to “Egypt without Women Debtors,” an initiative sponsored by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, of the eighty-three debt prisoners, forty-two imprisoned women debtors were released. The decree came under the campaign “Egypt without debts,” which applies to those who failed to repay loans borrowed for family expenses. According to Article 376 in the penal code, debtors may face up to three years in prison. The law states that debtors may be released from prison only if their debts are paid for them, or the person they owe pardons them. [Cairo Post, Ahram Online, 7/16/2015]

Embattled Koran reader Mohamed Gibril banned from leaving Egypt
Egypt’s airport authorities prevented prominent Koran reader Mohamed Gibril from traveling to London on Wednesday, less than twenty-four hours after the ministry of religious endowments banned him from preaching in mosques in Egypt. The Endowments Ministry said on Tuesday that Sheikh Mohamed Gibril had been banned from leading prayers after his politically-charged supplication during the Laylat al-Qadr prayers on Monday evening. Security sources at the airport said while Gibril  was finalizing his travel procedures, it emerged that his name was on a travel ban list. He was notified of the decision and his bags were removed from the plane. He was allowed to leave without arrest, the sources added. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, 7/16/2015]    

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Egypt cancels temporary ban on cotton imports
Egypt’s cabinet decided Wednesday to cancel a temporary ban on cotton imports and form a committee to review agricultural policy on cotton. The committee will include the Ministry of Industry and International Trade, the Ministry of Investment, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Ministry of Planning. Last week, the Ministry of Agriculture imposed a temporary ban on cotton imports to protect domestic cotton production and improve its marketing. However, the decision sparked fears of a backlash on the domestic spinning and weaving industry.  [Ahram Online, 7/16/2015]

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Cabinet renames Raba’a square after slain Prosecutor General
Egypt’s cabinet approved changing the name of Raba’a al-Adaweya Square to Hisham Barakat Square, after the late Prosecutor General who was assassinated late in June. The square once hosted an encampment organized in late June 2013 to show solidarity with and support for ousted president Mursi and his administration. It was maintained for weeks after his ouster in July 2013 following mass protests against his rule. The encampment were forcibly dispersed on August 14, 2013, leaving hundreds of protesters dead. Head of the Judges Club Abdullah Fathy had announced his intention to submit a request to the cabinet immediately following Barakat’s death, to change the name of the square. The request was made in order to “erase the memory” of the Raba’a al-Adaweya sit-in and “replace it with the everlasting memory of Barakat’s martyrdom as a respected judge,”Fathy explained in a phone interview on the day of the assassination. [Cairo Post, Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, DNE, 7/16/2015]

Police storms Yaqeen News premises, arrests director
Egyptian security raided the headquarters of Yaqeen News Network on Tuesday, accusing it of spreading false news and “inciting against the current regime,” the Interior Ministry said on Thursday.  The ministry also accused the network of being a “media arm” of the Muslim Brotherhood. The network, located in Cairo’s downtown neighbourhood, said it was raided by security personnel who arrested its director and a crew member. All the network’s equipment was also confiscated in the raid, the network said on its Facebook page. Confiscated computers had videos of Brotherhood and Ultras football fans protests, according to the ministry. Yaqeen describes itself as a “network concerned with local, regional and international news,” adding that it is not affiliated with any bodies or institutions and is “completely independent.” The ministry said the network’s director was referred to prosecution and jailed for four days pending investigation. The director, Yehia Khalaf, faced the prosecution on Wednesday, the network reported. The ministry made no reference to the other crew member who Yaqeen said was arrested during the raid. The network later reported the crew member’s release from custody. [DNE, Aswat Masriya, 7/16/2015]  

More policewomen to combat sexual harassment in Eid
Minister of Interior Magdy Abdel-Ghafar has ordered policewomen to increase their public presence during Eid al-Fitr celebrations to combat sexual harassment, Police General Abu Bakr Abdel-Karim, the minister’s aide for public relations and media, has said. Abu Bakr urged women to report sexual harassers to police, during a television phone interview. The Interior Ministry has promised harsh police intervention during Eid against sexual harassment, with Colonel Manal Atef, head of the violence against women department in the Interior Ministry saying Tuesday that anyone who calls a woman “Mozzah” (hey sexy) in Arabic would be sentenced to one year in prison. Anti-sexual harassment campaigns are sceptical of the promise. “Every year police promise serious interventions, and we see the presence of female police officers across Cairo and they do nothing. They arrest us instead,” said Shady Abou Zied, the founder of “Harassing the Harassers.” The spokesperson for the “I Saw Harassment” campaign, Fathy Farid, said it is difficult to measure whether alleged police intervention and law enforcement is really effective. [Ahram Online, DNE, 7/16/2015]

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Foreign Minister underlines importance of Egypt-US Strategic dialogue
Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has underlined the importance of the Egyptian-US strategic dialogue which will be held by the end of July. The dialogue will include specialists from both sides in a number of fields and tackle all aspects of relations binding between Cairo and Washington, Shoukry told diplomatic journalists on Wednesday. The dialogue is a “good opportunity” to discuss means of enhancing bilateral relations and exchange views over regional issues, Shoukry said. The dialogue will be held on July 28 to 29. He also said that Egypt has invited all world countries, including Qatar and Turkey, to take part in the inauguration ceremony of the New Suez Canal Project, slated for August 6. [SIS, 7/16/2015]

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