Top News: US, Egypt Resume Formal Security Talks with Kerry Visit

The United States and Egypt are returning to a “stronger base” in bilateral ties despite tensions and human rights concerns, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday after talks with his Egyptian counterpart. “Egypt remains vital … to engagement and stability in the region as a whole,” said Kerry, who held the first bilateral strategic dialogue since 2009. “There are obviously circumstances where we have found reason to have grave concern and we have expressed it very publicly,” he said at a news conference with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. “But we have multiple issues that we need to work on simultaneously.” Kerry told Shoukry the US would “continue to provide robust training to the Egyptian military, as the military seeks it and desires it, in an effort to build capacity, and also to meet the highest expectations of your military for its professionalism.” He also said a nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers last month would make Egypt and the region safer. In advance of his trip, Kerry met in Washington with Egyptian-American Mohammed Soltan, who had been sentenced to life in prison in Egypt for financing an anti-government sit-in and spreading “false news,” before being deported back to the United States. Shoukry said Cairo had no major disagreements with Washington, only “differences in points of view over some issues, which is natural.” Kerry later met President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and a senior State Department official said he stressed “the importance of press freedom and the protection of peaceful dissent, stressing that free participation in the political process is essential to help stem the growth of violent extremism.” The Egyptian presidential spokesperson said that Kerry expressed his country’s willingness to consult with Egypt on “different regional issues, and to benefit from its experience and leading role in the region.” US President Barack Obama told Sisi in a letter that he hopes that the strategic dialogue between the two countries will deepen cooperation and contribute to Egypt’s development, Sisi’s office said. According to a joint statement issued after the talks, Egypt and the United States will hold “the next round of the Strategic Dialogue in Washington, D.C. in 2016.” [APReutersAswat MasriyaMada MasrThe Guardian, 8/2/2015]


Egypt cabinet approves amendment over trials in absentia
The Egyptian cabinet approved on Sunday an amendment to the criminal procedure law that would allow defendants tried in absentia to be considered present if a lawyer represents them. Prior to the amendment, defendants tried in absentia were granted retrials after either being arrested or turning themselves in. The amendment to Article 50 of the criminal procedure law stipulates that defendants can avoid being tried in absentia even if they are at large, provided that they have a lawyer, Minister of Transitional Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Ibrahim al-Heneidy said. Heneidy said the cabinet approved the amendment because there are a large number of fugitives who have been sentenced in absentia. They are to retain the right of appeal to any verdict when they are present before a court of law. “The amendment aims to speed up the procedures to put many fugitives on trial. This way, the sentence won’t be dropped quickly,” Heneidy explained. [Ahram Online, 8/2/2015]  

Schedule for Egypt’s parliamentary elections expected next week
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued on Saturday amended political participation and parliamentary elections, Minister of Transitional Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Ibrahim al-Heneidy said. The election law allocates 448 seats to individual candidates and 120 seats to winner-takes-all lists, with quotas for women, youth and Christians. The previous law allocated 420 seats to individuals and 120 through lists. A new date for elections is set to be announced next week, Heneidy said, after a ceremony marking the opening of a new Suez Canal channel is held on Thursday. In related news, the High Electoral Commission (HEC) decided to form media commissions to monitor coverage of a long-awaited parliamentary election that is expected to be held later this year, state news agency MENA said Saturday. The three assigned commissions will be monitoring media coverage of the election on a daily basis and evaluating the media’s conduct, taking disciplinary actions against violators. Under the new decision, the HEC can require that media outlets found to be in violation publish an apology with a pledge not to commit another violation in the future. The commission can also go as far as punishing violators with a complete ban from covering the elections. It is unclear what actions would constitute a violation. [Reuters, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 8/3/2015]   

Also of Interest

Court says it lack of jurisdiction to nullify terrorist entities law
The Administrative Court on Monday said it ‘lacks jurisdiction’ to rule on a lawsuit demanding the annulment of ‘terrorist entities’ law issued in February, Youm7 reported. Lawyer Yasser Hussein, who brought the case against the presidency and the government, had demanded the abolition of the law citing its ‘unconstitutionality.’ Meanwhile, the Cairo Administrative Court on Monday also approved a request by Zamalek football club chairman Mortada Mansour to withdraw a lawsuit he had filled calling for Ultras football fan groups to be listed as terrorist organizations. Mansour requested in June that the suit be withdrawn. In a ruling on the case in May, the Appeal Court for Urgent Matters banned all Ultras groups and their activities on the basis of the evidence that they were involved in riots, but did not rule the groups to be terrorist organizations. [Cairo Post, Ahram Online, 8/3/2015]

BW Gas to provide Egypt with floating LNG terminal
Senior al-Jama’a al-Islamiya leader Ezzat al-Salamony reportedly died in Tora Prison’s hospital Saturday, while Muslim Brotherhood member Ahmed Ghozlan, also died the same day in Al-Abadeya Prison in the Beheira governorate. The head of the Construction and Development Party, the political wing of al-Jama’a al-Islamiya, Tarek al-Zomor, attributed the cause of death to medical negligence. Mohamed Ghozlan, son of Ahmed Ghozlan, had posted on his page a few days earlier that prison authorities had refused to allow into the prison medical treatment brought by his family. Al-Abadeya prison in Beheira had witnessed several instances of reported deaths and protests by the families of the detained due to ill-treatment of detained family members. [DNE, 8/2/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Cairo court delays verdict in Al-Jazeera journalists trial to August 29 | Ahram Online, Reuters, AP, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr      
  • Egypt MOI says can’t secure trial of policemen charged with torturing detainee to death | Ahram Online
  • None can interfere in judiciary, Brotherhood defendants tried by law says al-Zend | DNE
  • Verdict on Egyptian militant Zawahri and sixty-seven others postponed | Aswat Masriya, Cairo Post
  • Twenty-seven Muslim Brotherhood members acquitted over storming police station | Ahram Online
  • Hesham Talaat Mostafa requests release for health reasons | Egypt Independent
  • Egyptian-Irish teenager held for over 700 days has detention renewed | DNE


BW Gas to provide Egypt with floating LNG terminal
Norwegian gas shipping company BW Gas will provide Egypt with a liquefied natural gas (LNG) floating import terminal under a five year contract. The deal is worth about $60 million per year, according to Oil Minister Sherif Ismail. Egypt’s first floating terminal, which was provided by Norway’s Hoegh LNG, arrived in Egypt in April, allowing the country to begin LNG imports. The new terminal will have a capacity of 750 million cubic feet per day and will start pumping gas into the national grid in mid-October. The Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS) is also in talks over importing additional LNG cargoes with Russia’s Gazprom and Algeria’s state-owned Sonatrach. Egypt’s planning ministry said the country expects to import 28.6 million tonnes of crude oil, liquefied natural gas (LNG), and other oil products worth a total of almost $16 billion in 2015-16. [Reuters, 8/3/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Supply Ministry plans new logistic zones in five areas | Egypt Independent
  • Customs Authority buys scanners with US$65 million grant | Egypt Independent
  • Projects worth EGP 18 billion implemented last year | Egypt Independent
  • Egypt says over 50 percent of conference promises turned into projects | Reuters
  • Egypt says Suez revenues to rise by 9 percent in current fiscal year | Ahram Online
  • Egypt economy grew 4.7 percent in first nine months of FY 2014/2015 | DNE

Killing nine Brotherhood leaders in security raid could amount to “extrajudicial execution” says HRW
The shooting and killing of nine Muslim Brotherhood leaders during a security raid last month “could qualify as extrajudicial executions”, international group Human Rights Watch said in a report on Friday. “If these were extrajudicial executions, it would signal a new level of lawlessness on the part of Egyptian security forces,” said Joe Stork, the group’s deputy Middle East director. “As more information emerges, it is clear that the authorities have a lot of explaining to do as to how and why their forces killed nine men on July 1.” HRW investigated the case by talking to eleven relatives and witnesses of the incident, who stated that the police first arrested, then tortured and killed, the nine men during the raid. The Interior Ministry released a statement following the incident saying that the nine men opened fire on security forces from behind a closed apartment door and were killed in the subsequent exchange of fire.  [Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 8/1/2015]  

No journalists behind bars in Egypt for doing their job says Foreign Minister
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that no journalists are in prison in Egypt for crimes related to freedom of expression or their work. “None of the journalists… are in prison or facing a judicial process related to their professional journalism, but are accused of implication with terrorist activity or contravening stipulated legal norms that has necessitated that these accusations are made,” Shoukry said during a press conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Cairo on Sunday. He added that such journalists are “afforded all forms of defense to deal with these accusations.” A day earlier, the Interior Ministry ordered an investigation into the alleged break-in on the apartment of journalist Ahmed Fares, who works for privately owned Albawaba news. Fares, a foreign affairs reporter at Albawaba and a member of the Press Syndicate, attempted to file a police report in Dar al-Salam police station last Monday, the day of the attack. He accused security forces of breaking into his apartment in his absence, as well as the apartment of his uncle next door, and stealing EGP 18,000. However, the police station refused to file the report for him and threatened him on reporting what happened. Fares then went to the prosecution office in Dar al-Salam, which filed the report for him on Tuesday. [Ahram Online, Reuters, DNE, 8/3/2015]

Also of Interest

Militant leader, eighty-eight terrorists killed in Sinai in twelve days says army
Egyptian armed forces killed a leading member of the country’s Islamic State affiliate in a shootout outside his North Sinai home, the army spokesman said in a statement on Saturday. Selim Suleiman al-Haram, identified in the statement as a leader of the militant group known as Sinai State, was asked to turn himself in by a group of soldiers that surrounded his house in the town of Sheikh Zuweid, the army said. He refused, opening fire on the troops and attempting to blow himself up before being shot dead, the army said. The Egyptian army also killed eighty-eight militants in North Sinai between July 20 and 31, the army’s spokesman said in a statement Sunday. The statement added that the army detained fifty-eight suspects during the last twelve days, two of whom were already wanted by authorities. Meanwhile, South Sinai Security Director Magdy Moussa said the security convoys for tourist buses would be gradually cancelled, to avoid delays. During his inspection tour of Dahab on Friday, Moussa said that surveillance cameras have been placed to cover all cities in order to ensure safety. [Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, 8/1/2015]

Senior judge survives assassination attempt; Two killed in attack on police officer’s car
A senior judge in the Delta governorate of Sharqiya became the latest official to be targeted in a car bomb plot on Sunday. Judge Mohamed Abdullah, head of the Khanka Court, survived the explosion outside his apartment in Diarb Negm City, according to daily Al-Masry al-Youm. Bomb squads rushed to the scene, but no fatalities or injuries from the attack have been reported. According to local media, the bomb was placed under the judge’s car. No organization has claimed responsibility for the attack at this time. Meanwhile, two people, including a four-year old girl, were killed in an armed attack on a police officer’s private car Monday. Armed assailants attacked Sherif Samy al-Nashar’s car, a police officer with the Interior Ministry’s prisoners’ transport sector, in the Snoras village, Fayoum, according to investigations. He was accompanied by his daughter and lawyer Ramy Kamel, both of whom were killed. Nashar survived the attack.  [Cairo Post,Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, 8/3/2015]

Also of Interest   

  • What is the significance of al-Qaeda’s presence in Sinai? | Ahram Online

Britain approves major new arms deals with Egypt in 2015
The British government has this year increased its arms deals with Egypt, after a reduction in arms exports following the 2013 ouster of president Mohamed Morsi, the website Newsweek reported on Friday. According to the report, official records released by the British government and reported by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) showed that London in the first three months of 2015 approved military licences to Egypt for “components of military combat vehicles” worth 48.8 million GBP ($76.3 million). These figures represent a 3,000 percent increase year-on-year in the value of military deals between the two countries. According to Newsweek, in the first quarter of 2014 military deals between both countries were worth 1.6 million GBP ($2.4 million). A number of arms export licences were suspended by the UK in 2013 after the ouster of Morsi. Newsweek reported that the British government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the entity authorized to sanction and suspend military licenses, declined to reveal more details about the items being exported under the terms of the deal. [Ahram Online, 8/1/2015]

Egypt extends for six months military mandate in Gulf, Red Sea
The Egyptian government extended by six months the deployment of “some elements of the armed forces” outside Egypt’s borders to defend national and Arab security in the Gulf, Red Sea, and the Strait of Mandeb, state news agency MENA said on Saturday. Egypt authorized a forty-day mandate on March 26, and extended it for three months in May 3 before extending it again on Saturday following the national defense council’s approval. [Reuters, Mada Masr, 8/1/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Newspaper: Russia to sign Egypt’s first nuclear power plant deal this week | Egypt Independent
  • Suffering in silence, Sudanese refugees now migrating from Egypt | Al-Monitor
  • Egypt prolongs role in Saudi-led Yemen coalition | AFP
  • Trial of 101 Egyptian fishermen in Sudan delayed to August 6 | Cairo Post
  • Eighty-nine arrested at Sallum border crossing over ‘illegal immigration’ | Cairo Post
  • Up to 67,000 Egyptians have fled Libya since ISIS beheading video | Cairo Post