Top News: US Concerned by Egypt’s Investigation of Human Rights Groups; Nazra for Feminist Studies Summoned in Investigation

US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday he was deeply concerned by the deterioration in the human rights situation in Egypt, including Egypt’s decision to reopen an investigation of non-governmental organizations. In a statement released by the State Department, Kerry said the decision by the Egyptian government this week to investigate the NGOs, which were documenting human rights abuses, comes against a wider backdrop of arrests and intimidation of the political opposition, journalists, activists and others. Amnesty International also released a statement Friday describing the move as the “latest tool to eradicate civil society.” The Deputy Speaker of Egypt’s parliament Soliman Wahdan told reporters on Saturday that Kerry’s statement represented another “American intervention in Egypt’s internal affairs,” an opinion that was echoed by many members of parliament. MPs also demanded that a strict ban be imposed on foreign funding of NGOs operating in Egypt. Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry also responded to Kerry’s criticisms saying that Egypt does not accept the guardianship of foreign countries and that human rights are a national responsibility. The Cairo Criminal Court meanwhile adjourned Saturday to March 24 a session to rule on Thursday’s judicial order freezing the assets of four rights activists, including journalist Hossam Bahgat and lawyer Gamal Eid, on charges they received a total of $1.5 million in “illegal funds from foreign entities” after all defendants failed to show up in court. The judge inquired as to the absence of the defendants, to which defense lawyers said their clients were not officially notified of the case and only knew of it through the media. It is the legal right of defendants to be notified that they are being prosecuted. In a statement issued Sunday, Nazra for Feminist Studies said it is also being investigated for illegally receiving foreign funding in the same case. [ReutersAswat MasriyaMada MasrDNEAMAYAhram Online, 3/20/2016]


Parliamentary delegation to visit ‎North Sinai despite security concerns
Deputy Speaker of Egypt’s ‎parliament Soliman Wahdan told reporters Sunday that he will be at ‎the helm of a parliamentary delegation that will ‎visit North Sinai soon. “We will head to North Sinai ‎very soon to review security and living conditions ‎there because this is part of parliament’s job,” Wahdan said. “We ‎have to be there on the ground to see what is really ‎going on in this part of Egypt.”‎ In a plenary session two weeks ago, the ‎parliament ‎approved three parliamentary delegation ‎visits to five border governorates: North and South ‎Sinai, Marsa Matruh, Aswan and the Red Sea. ‎Wahdan said the visit to North Sinai will come only ‎after this governorate’s deputies in parliament give ‎their own assessment of the security and living ‎conditions there. Parliament’s secretariat-general told MPs last week ‎that the visit to North Sinai would be postponed ‎upon the request of the Interior Ministry. “The ‎Ministry said comprehensive security arrangements should be ‎taken first to guarantee that MPs conduct a ‎successful visit to North Sinai,” the parliament’s ‎secretariat-general said in statement.‎‎ Salama al-Roqie, an MP for North Sinai affiliated with the ‘In Support of Egypt’ ‎parliamentary bloc, indicated that “until the security ‎arrangements for the visit are completed, we are probing ‎the possibility of inviting heads of the main Bedouin ‎tribes and government officials in North Sinai to ‎come to parliament to give their evaluation of the ‎situation there.”‎ [Ahram Online, 3/20/2016]

Egyptian MPs to visit EU parliament to combat ‘lies’
The parliament has authorized an eight-member delegation to visit Brussels next month, to respond to the European Parliament’s recent resolution which condemned alleged human rights violations in Egypt. Independent MP Alaa Wali disclosed that the visit, approved by speaker Ali Abdel-Al, will be held between April 3 and 7 during which the European Parliament will be in session. Referring to the investigation into the murder of Italian researcher Giulio Regeni, Wali said, “We will try our best to convey to MEPs the most up-to-date and accurate legal and judicial information about Regeni’s death and respond to their attacks about the human rights situation in Egypt – particularly the issue related to what is called enforced disappearances.” The delegation to Brussels will be led by Ahmed Said,  a businessman and former chairman of the liberal-oriented Free Egyptians Party, and will also include MP Heba Hagras, businessman Mohamed al-Sewedi, Ahmed Khalil from the Salafist Nour Party, Karim Nabil, an independent MP, Sherine Faraag, a presidential appointee to the parliament, and Ahmed Samir Mahmoud, who represents the Future of Egypt Party. Some MPs, however, have been critical of the planned visit. Mostafa Bakri, an independent MP, wondered why “the Egyptian parliament is making a lot of foreign visits at a time when the country is suffering from a severe shortage in foreign currency.” Bakri also raised strong doubts that the delegation to Brussels will have a positive impact. “It is a waste of time and money to conduct a dialogue with human rights fanatics in this arrogant European Parliament,” said Bakri. [Ahram Online, 3/19/2016]  

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Egypt courts uphold Jazeera suspension, six-month Ahmed Douma, Mohamed Adel sentence
An Egyptian court upheld on Monday a ruling suspending the broadcast of the Egypt-focused television channel Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr from inside Egypt. The High Administrative Court also rejected two appeals against the ruling presented by State Lawsuits Authority and the Qatar-based Al Jazeera Channel. Today’s court ruling is final and cannot be appealed. A Maadi court on Saturday also upheld a six-month prison sentence for two well-known political activists, Ahmed Douma and Mohamed Adel, for assaulting police officers assigned to a court in Maadi in 2013 while they were on trial in another case. The misdemeanor court rejected an appeal by Douma, a well-known political activist, and Mohamed Adel, one of the founders of the now-banned April 6 Youth Movement. [Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, DNE, 3/21/2016]

Egyptian court orders conditional release of ten pro-Brotherhood Islamist figures
A Cairo criminal court ordered Saturday the conditional release of ten leading Islamist members of the now-banned National Alliance to Support of Legitimacy who are facing various criminal charges. The ten men will be under house arrest as part of the conditions of the release. The High State Security Prosecution has already appealed the conditional release decision. The defendants, who are facing various charges including “spreading lies” and “inciting violence in a way that led to the disturbance of public peace,” include coalition spokesman Magdi Korkor, the former head of the Islamist-oriented Labor Party. Magdi Hussein, who headed the Istiqlal Party, and Nasser Abdel-Salam, chairman of the Building and Development Party, the political wing of al-Jama’a al-Islamiya, were also among the ten defendants ordered to be released. Meanwhile, the retrial of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Badie and 36 others in the ‘Raba’a Task Force’ case was put on hold on Sunday until a request to change the judge is processed. The defense team made a request for a new judge, citing enmity between Judge Moataz Khafagy and the suspects as the reason. [Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, AMAY, 3/20/2016]

Egypt court will not hear Salafist Nour Party constitutionality case
Egypt’s Higher Administrative Court on Saturday refused to hear a case that asks for the dissolution of the Salafist Nour Party on the grounds that the party is unconstitutional. The lawsuit, one of several, was filed by lawyer Sami al-Roubi against all political parties that have a religious point of reference. Egyptian election laws prohibit the formation of political parties on the basis of race or religion. The Nour Party is the only Islamist party that survived as a legal entity after the 2013 transition. [Ahram Online, 3/19/2016]

Youm7 chief editor referred to trial for publishing false news
The Giza Cassation Court referred Youm7 editor-in-chief Khaled Salah and two editorial team members to trial, according to state-owned newspaper Gomhouria. Salah, Rania Amer, and Dandarawy al-Haway from the editorial team were referred to court on charges of publishing false news about the Central Auditing Authority (CAO). They are also accused of assaulting CAO head, Hisham Genena, and reporting false news related to the CAO’s work on the recently published data about corruption in state institutions, in addition to disturbing national security and inciting the public against CAO. [DNE, 3/19/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt court to issue verdict April 17 in case of 51 defendants in Port Said Prison riots | Ahram Online


Egypt signs $1.5 billion Sinai development deal with Saudi Arabia
Egypt on Sunday signed an agreement with Saudi Arabia worth $1.5 billion to finance development projects in the Sinai during the fifth meeting of the Egyptian-Saudi coordination council in Riyadh, according to the Ministry of International Cooperation. The funds will be used for agriculture projects and to build 26 residential complexes that will include hospitals and schools. Minister of International Cooperation Sahar Nasr highlighted “the importance of sustainable development and offering work opportunities for the residents of Sinai, which is the most important way to eliminate extremism and terrorism.” A separate five-year agreement was signed between the Saudi Development Fund, the Egyptian Public Oil Authority, and Saudi company Aramco to help Egypt finance its petrol needs. [AFP, Ahram Online, 3/21/2016]

Egypt considering tighter regulations on currency bureaus
The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) is considering tougher regulations on foreign-exchange dealers as part of a broader effort to crack down on the black market. The CBE is seeking to reduce the number of foreign-exchange bureaus and introduce measures to improve transparency, an unnamed source said. A crackdown on currency traders has been widely predicted in Egyptian media. On Sunday, al-Shorouk reported that some currency bureaus may temporarily halt operations to avoid incurring losses from trading at the official price. Bankers and traders said the pound weakened on the black market on Sunday. Meanwhile, the CBE announced that it will hold only one foreign currency auction a week on Tuesdays for $120 million. The bank previously held three auctions a week for $40 million each. [Bloomberg, 3/20/2016]

Also of Interest

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Egyptian public employees protest civil service law salaries
Dozens of government employees gathered in front of the Press Syndicate on Sunday in objection to an attempt to repass the civil service bill, amid tight security. Demonstrators called on the cabinet to resign. Instead of the controversial civil service bill, they called for the preparation of a uniform law for all state employees without exception to be put forward for public discussion. The civil service law was passed last year with the aim of reforming Egypt’s administrative apparatus in order to encourage investments by curbing notorious bureaucratic inefficiencies and streamlining hiring practices and wage-structures in government institutions. The current salary scheme is part of the state budget for the current fiscal year, which was approved by parliament, Tarek Kueib, spokesperson for a pressure group against the civil service law and head of the independent syndicate for property tax employees told Ahram Online. “We did not participate in the protest because it is impossible to demand the revocation of the state budget in the last four months, despite the scheme being unfair to us,” he said. Head of the Tax Authority Syndicate Fatma Fouad also told Aswat Masriya that there are severe restrictions imposed on tax employees to prevent them from protesting. She said “we are not against the state or the regime, we are calling for our right to a dignified living.” [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 3/20/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Professor at Helwan University to be investigated for sexual harassment | Mada Masr
  • Political parties, rights organizations decry ‘legal’ vengeance | DNE
  • Interior Ministry disciplinary committee summons Matariya doctors | DNE


Fifteen policemen killed in North Sinai attack
At least 15 policemen were killed in an armed attack on a checkpoint in the North Sinai city of Arish on Saturday, Egypt’s Interior Ministry said in an official statement. Ambulances were subjected to heavy gunfire as they attempted to reach the wounded, sources said. The victims, who were killed when a mortar shell blasted through a police checkpoint in Arish’s al-Safa neighborhood, included two police captains, a first lieutenant, and 12 conscripts. Security sources said government forces later killed five of the militants who had carried out the attack. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in a statement published online that it had deployed a suicide bomber who blew up a car at the checkpoint, before militants attacked the site, according to AFP. The US embassy in Cairo issued a statement on Sunday strongly condemning the “heinous” attack, as did Yemen, Hungary, Jordan, and Lebanon. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, Reuters, AP, DNE, 3/21/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Minister of Interior calls for CSF forces to adhere to operational procedures | DNE


UN recommends committee inspect human rights conditions inside Egypt’s prisons
The UN International Council for Human Rights held a conference on Thursday in Geneva during which a recommendation was issued calling for the establishment of an international committee to investigate conditions inside Egypt’s prisons. The UN conference discussed the status of detainees and the judicial system in a number of countries, including Egypt. The conference was attended by international human rights defendants, representatives from NGOs, and political activists. Several countries expressed their concerns about human rights violations allegedly committed by Egyptian security authorities against human rights defendants and activists. On behalf of the European Union, the Netherlands expressed its concerns about such violations in Egypt and asserted that the EU supports lawful counter-terrorism efforts. Germany, Switzerland, and the United States agreed that the state of human rights in Egypt is deteriorating and expressed concerns about military trials for civilians and mass verdicts of capital punishment. State-run Al-Ahram reported statements from Egypt’s permanent UN representative Amr Ramadan who fired back against the criticisms, saying that alleged human rights violations in Egypt are meaningless and lack credibility. [DNE, 3/19/2016]

Also of Interest

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  • Egypt expresses condolences to Russia for FlyDubai plane crash | Ahram Online
  • Egypt FM visiting Tunisia on Monday to attend Libya conference | Ahram Online
  • Egypt’s Military Production Minister heads to Russia for talks | Ahram Online, DNE
  • Egypt calls for ‘Syrian unity’ after Kurds declare federal system | Ahram Online
  • UN envoy to Libya agrees with Egyptian officials on supporting national unity government | DNE