Top News: Tunisian Writer Deported at Cairo Airport, Labeled ‘National Security’ Threat

Tunisian writer Amel Grami was deported from Cairo International Airport on Sunday and denied entry into Egypt, despite being invited to participate in a conference by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Grami had been a contributor to the privately owned Egyptian newspaper Al-Shorouk, writing several columns and op-eds regarding the revolution in Tunisia, the Arab Spring, political Islamism, terrorism, and means of countering terrorism. According to her post on Facebook, after waiting for hours at the airport she was told that she posed a threat to Egypt’s “national security” and would not be allowed to enter the country. Grami was not given any further details on why she is listed as a persona non grata by Egyptian security. Her detention at Cairo Airport was publicized by Egyptian human rights lawyer Khaled Mansour. On his Facebook page, Mansour wrote that Grami “fell into the hands of those who jail people, who chase after people, who pursue and slander them, just because of their thoughts and opinions.” [Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, 1/3/2016]


Egypt’s parliament to convene January 10; Sisi appoints 28 Members of Parliament
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has called for Egypt’s new parliament to convene on January 10, state television said on Thursday, more than three years after the old Islamist-dominated chamber was dissolved. Sisi also issued a presidential decree appointing 28 parliamentarians to the newly elected parliament. Fourteen of the appointed figures are women. The list of appointees includes professors, lawyers, party leaders, and other public figures. Further information on the 28 appointees can be found here. A majority parliamentary bloc in support of Sisi, meanwhile, announced this week that MP and constitutional law professor Ali Abdel-Al will likely be elected as the speaker of Egypt’s new parliament. Abdel-Al’s name shot to the top of the list of candidates for speaker after former interim president and the incumbent chairman of the Supreme Constitutional Court Adli Mansour refused an offer by Sisi to be appointed to parliament. The list of 28 presidential appointees did include one high-profile judicial figure, Sirri Siam, the former chairman of the Court of Cassation and the Higher Council for Judges. However, Siam said he has no intention to run for the post of the speaker of parliament. [Ahram Online, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, 1/2/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt’s security apparatuses working against country’s interests says MP Okasha | Ahram Online
  • Egypt MP Okasha barred from holding conference on independent MP bloc | Ahram Online


Egypt court overturns life sentences against Brotherhood figures
Egypt’s Court of Cassation overturned on Monday a life sentence handed to Muslim Brotherhood chief Mohamed Badie over violence-related charges in an appeal session, ordering a retrial. The court also reversed life sentences against 12 others, including deputy-leader Khairat al-Shater and senior Brotherhood figures Essam al-Erian, Saad al-Katatni, and Mohamed al-Beltagy. Four death sentences against lower-level members in the case have also been overturned. The court said the verdicts in the ‘Guidance Bureau case’ were “flawed” and therefore accepted the appeals. Meanwhile, the Court of Appeals scheduled Sunday the first retrial session for the Raba’a Operations Room for February 8. Badie and 37 others are among the defendants. The same court accepted Monday the recusation request submitted by the defense team in the case known as ‘Awsim Cell,’ presided over by Judge Nagy Shehata. The Court’s order indicates that Shehata was deemed unqualified to perform his legal duties with regards to this particular case, and therefore another judge will be assigned. The defense team submitted the request following Judge Shehata’s controversial statements in a recent interview with al-Watan newspaper. [Ahram Online, Anadolou Agency, Aswat Masriya, 1/4/2016]

Court sentences journalist to three years for illegal protest
Journalist Mohamed Abdel Moneim was sentenced to three years imprisonment on Sunday, after a court found him guilty of participating in an unauthorized protest on April 24, 2015. However, Abdel Moneim’s coworkers at the Tahya Masr news portal insist he was arrested while covering the protest, not participating in it. The Cairo Criminal Court ruled that Abdel Moneim breached the Protest Law, also ruling that the 22-year-old journalist was guilty of possessing weapons, Molotov cocktails, obstructing traffic, endangering the lives of civilians, and damaging both public and private property. The court’s panel added that Abdel Moniem is not officially a journalist as he is not a registered member of Egypt’s Journalists Syndicate. The privately owned Al-Shorouk newspaper reported that the court had issued an identical sentence against two other defendants on Sunday: a 19-year-old student Essam Abdel Hakim, and 15-year-old student Abdel Rahman Sayyed. [Ahram Online, Mada Masr, 1/3/2016]

Egypt court acquits writer charged of publishing ‘sexually explicit text’
A Cairo misdemeanor court acquitted a novelist and the editor-in-chief of a literature magazine after the two were accused of “publishing and writing an article with obscene sexual content” and of “offending public decency.” While the detailed reasoning of the verdict is yet to be released, Ahmed Naji and Tarek al-Taher’s defense lawyer Mahmoud Othman explained that a number of arguments he presented to the court in earlier sessions are mostly likely the reason behind the acquittal. The plaintiffs, according to Othman, do not have the right to file the case in the first place. “They claimed that they represent society, which is not the case. Only prosecution has this right.” The defense team also presented evidence from early Arabic and Islamic literature where the same terms that Naji used in his novel were used. Othman added that Islamic heritage used even more controversial terms than those chosen by Naji in his novel. Finally, Othman added that the testimonies of renowned novelists in support of Naji helped strengthening his legal position. [Ahram Online, DNE, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 1/2/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt appeal court annuls five year sentences against 18 Morsi supporters, orders retrial | Ahram Online
  • Fans protest as court reviews Islam al-Beheiry’s challenge to blasphemy sentence | AMAY
  • Militant suspect Habbara declines to sign appeal over death sentences | AMAY


Egypt arrears owed to oil firms rises to $3 billion at end-2015
Egypt’s outstanding arrears to foreign oil companies rose to $3 billion at the end of December from $2.7 billion at the end of October, Petroleum Minister Tarek al-Molla said Sunday. The ministry had said in September that Egypt aimed to reduce the arrears owed to foreign oil companies to $2.5 billion by the end of 2015 and to pay them off completely by the end of 2016. Delays in paying back foreign petroleum companies had discouraged investment, but a drive to increase the price paid for domestic production and pay back arrears had encouraged new contracts signed in 2015. Molla did not provide further detail on why total arrears have risen since November. [Reuters, 1/3/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt allows ‘upon arrival visas’ to Chinese tourist groups | Ahram Online
  • Egypt’s stocks rise in 2016 first trading | Ahram Online
  • Egypt signs MoU with Chinese company to construct sixth metro line | Ahram Online
  • Egypt to apply new round of customs deductions on EU imported cars | Aswat Masriya
  • Egypt’s 5-year, 10-year treasury bonds rise at auction | Reuters


Egypt arrests three Facebook pages admins, four April 6 members ahead of 25 Jan anniversary
Egypt’s Interior Ministry said in a statement Saturday it arrested three people who run 23 Facebook pages, accusing them of using the website to incite against state institutions. The ministry accused two men, both aged 27, and a 25-year-old women of being members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Close to a dozen citizens were arrested in 2015 on similar accusations, the most recent at the beginning of December. Meanwhile, four members of the April 6 Youth Movement, arrested on December 28, will remain in police detention for 15 days, as ordered Monday by Dokki prosecution authorities. Members Ayman Abdel Megeed and Mohamed Nabil were taken from their houses on Monday at dawn. Senior members of the movement’s political bureau Sherif al-Roubi and Mahmoud Hisham were arrested later that day. [AP, DNE, 1/3/2016]

Facebook’s two month Free Basics offer to Etisalat ‘simply expired,’ says Egyptian official
A Facebook-sponsored service that offers limited free Internet access to clients of the mobile carrier Etisalat was suspended in Egypt on Wednesday after a permit required from the government was not renewed, an official from the Telecommunications Ministry told Reuters. Facebook’s Free Basics service, which aims to provide free access to Facebook and some partner websites in developing countries, was launched in Egypt two months ago by the mobile carrier Etisalat. The official, who declined to be named, said Etisalat had only been granted a permit to offer the service for two months and that, when it expired on Wednesday, the service was suspended. The suspension was not related to security concerns, the official said. Etisalat said it would release a statement Thursday. [Reuters/Ahram Online, 12/31/2015]

Townhouse Gallery closure raises widespread concern
Dozens of local rights groups denounced the closure of the Townhouse Gallery for Contemporary Art in Downtown Cairo in an official joint statement on Saturday. The 20 NGOs include a number of prominent rights groups and observatories, as well as cultural centres, among them the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), Darb 1718, and the Nazra Association for Feminist Studies. The statement called on the Egyptian government to immediately put an end to all the procedures it is taking against cultural organizations. It also called for the reopening of the spaces due to their important role in enhancing cultural education, in addition to being a platform for creative people to showcase their work. Last Monday, the gallery was shut down by a consortium of authorities, led by the Censorship Authority. Charges were filed against the gallery following a security raid. The workers at the gallery were surprised by officials who identified themselves as members of the Censorship Authority, the Tax Authority, the National Security Agency, and the local office of the Ministry of Manpower. A day later, Egypt’s censorship authority raided and searched Merit Publishing house in downtown Cairo according to its owner Mohamed Hashem. [DNE, 1/2/2016]

Also of Interest

  • At least 15 killed in ferry accident in Kafr al-Sheikh | DNE, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr
  • Egypt’s PM orders immediate investigation into death of 15 in Nile boat sinking | Ahram Online, DNE
  • Egypt’s interior ministry blames transportation authority for Nile ferry disaster | Ahram Online
  • Egypt’s general prosecution detains five state officials in Kafr al-Sheikh ferry disaster | Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya
  • Kafr al-Sheikh ferry sank due to overload and poor weather conditions | Ahram Online
  • Kafr al-Sheikh sunken ferry license not renewed since owner’s death, says governor | AMAY
  • Student Union to meet Higher Education Minister to resolve crisis | DNE
  • Doctors’ Syndicate raises new questions concerning health insurance bill | DNE
  • Detainee Mahmoud Hussein turns 20 after two years in jail | DNE
  • Press group counts 60 violations against reporters in December | Egypt Independent
  • Al-Azhar condemns Christian channel for promoting sedition | AMAY
  • Ministry announces more plans to solve Egypt’s urban housing crises | Mada Masr


Egypt’s army says it killed 55 terrorists, arrested nine in North Sinai in weekend raids
Security forces in North Sinai killed a total of 29 militants and arrested four suspects in an exchange of fire in Arish, Rafah, and Sheikh Zuweid, Military Spokesman Mohamed Samir said in a statement Monday. On Sunday, Samir also announced in a statement that military forces conducted several raids on “terrorist dens” in Arish, Rafah, Sheikh Zuweid, and some areas in Central Sinai under aerial protection on Saturday, killing 26 militants. The raids also resulted in the arrest of five suspects and the destruction of a vehicle and four motorbikes. Samir said in a separate statement Sunday that military forces detected a convoy of camels used in supplying “terrorists” with weapons, ammunition, and food near the area of Abarqain and Mount Umm Hlouf. On Saturday, Samir said in a statement that military forces found a weapons storage space belonging to “terrorist cells” in Northern Sinai. According to the statement, 1.5 tons of bombs and 32 types of blast material were seized in the storage space in the Um Haseera mountain of Sinai. Egyptian officials, meanwhile, said militants in North Sinai shelled a home near a security checkpoint, killing an entire family of five and wounding a teenage neighbor on Thursday. [Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, 1/4/2016]

Interior Ministry addresses forced disappearances amid growing criticism

The Interior Ministry sent a report to the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) on Saturday in response to the group’s investigation into the forced disappearance of 101 people. Abo-Bakr Abdel-Kerim, Assistant Interior Minister for PR and media, said that out of the 101 names, 83 are awaiting trial and 16 are temporarily detained pending investigation. He said the ministry is looking into the remaining names and will inform the council. However, George Ishak, a member of the NCHR, told Mada Masr that the ministry’s report contains no details on the cases mentioned, saying it is irrelevant to the council’s efforts to locate the victims of forced disappearance. The Popular Current, meanwhile, issued a statement Saturday holding President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi accountable for the forced disappearances of political activists. The party demanded information on the forced disappearance of Yanayer Gate journalist and political activist Mahmoud al-Saqqa, who was missing for three days. According to the newspaper, he was arrested by police forces in Mohandessin. The Stop Forced Disappearances campaign announced that Saqqa appeared on Saturday before the National Security prosecution. He was ordered detained 15 days pending investigation on charges of joining a banned organization and publishing false news. [Ahram Online, Mada Masr, 1/3/2016]

Also of Interest
Ministry of Interior to allow ‘exceptional’ visits for prisoners | DNE


Egyptian ambassador returns to Israel after three-year hiatus
Israel says Egypt has sent a new ambassador after a three-year hiatus. Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday that Egyptian Ambassador Hazem Khairat arrived on Friday. The position had been vacant since 2012, when Egypt, under then-President Mohamed Morsi, withdrew its ambassador in reaction to an Israeli offensive on Gaza. Khairat was appointed ambassador to Israel in June 2015, but it was not clear when he would officially take up the post. He previously served as Egypt’s representative to the Arab League and ambassador to Chile. Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that the return of the Egyptian ambassador to Israel should be seen in the context of the “important task of supporting the Palestinian cause.” In his weekly cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Khairat’s arrival. “[His arrival] will enable us to further strengthen relations with this important and key Arab country,” Netanyahu said. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, said on Saturday that Egypt will play an important role in favor of the Palestinian cause, after taking a seat in the UN Security Council. [AP, Mada Masr, Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, DNE, 1/3/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt’s top Islamic authority urges non-interference in Saudi affairs following mass execution | Ahram Online
  • Egypt condemns attacks on Saudi Embassy and consulate in Iran | Aswat Masriya
  • Saudi-Egyptian business council talks kick off in Riyadh Monday | Ahram Online
  • New Ethiopia dam talks start Wednesday says Foreign Ministry | AMAY, Ahram Online
  • Egypt prone to more political instability according to CFR survey | DNE, Egypt Independent
  • Sisi and head of Kuwait National Council discuss bilateral cooperation | DNE
  • Sisi to meet with Kuwaiti parliament’s speaker | Aswat Masriya