Top News: US Religious Commission Categorizes Egypt as ‘Country of Particular Concern’

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom for the fifth year in a row is recommending that the State Department categorize Egypt as a “country of particular concern” subject to sanctions. The Obama administration has repeatedly ignored that advice, and even those lawmakers most invested in the issue of religious freedom hope to keep it that way. “I think that Egypt is probably in the past year or so the most improved country in the world given where they were under the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood,” said Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., the chairman of the International Religious Freedom Caucus. “When they’ve changed directions in such a positive way, we need to encourage them to continue and not slap them in the face.” Religious freedom caucus member Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., said now’s exactly the wrong time to put Egypt on the list. The report, released April 30, praises Sisi’s calls for religious tolerance but faults Egyptian authorities for failing to do enough to protect religious minorities — particularly Coptic Christians — and their property and places of worship. It also raises concerns with growing state control over mosques and a crackdown on dissent associated with the fight against extremism. Meanwhile, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is set to meet Monday with a US Congressional delegation. The delegation is led by Representative Devin Nunes, chairman of the Permanent Select Committee for Intelligence at the House of Representatives. [Al-Monitor, 5/4/2015]


Nine political parties launch initiative for new parliamentary elections law
Nine political parties in Egypt launched on Sunday an initiative to draft a new parliamentary elections law in order to present it to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, instead of the amended current law handed over by the cabinet. The parties also announced that they were holding a three-day workshop in order to draft the parliamentary elections law that would include their suggestions which were ignored by the government, according to their statement. Among the nine parties participating in the initiative are: al-Wafd Party, Conservatives Party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and the Socialist Popular Alliance Party. In related news, Refaat al-Saeed, Chairman of the Tagammu Party’s advisory board, called for the need to elect a parliament as soon as possible, saying that the delay of the parliamentary election negatively affects the political and economic situation in Egypt. Meanwhile, Social Democratic Egyptian Party Chief Mohamed AbulGharsaid reports submitted by security services to Sisi over the upcoming parliamentary elections are contradictory. Some reports support holding the elections, while others recommend canceling them, he said. He added that some reports urged the suspension of parties, while still others stressed the importance of their existence in the political arena. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 5/3/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt’s oldest political party al-Wafd faces division | Ahram Online, Egypt Independent
  • Mahlab’s cabinet enjoys higher confidence than previous cabinets  |Egypt Independent
  • Democratic Current to form confederation among its parties | Egypt Independent
  • Cabinet approves draft decree for UAE grant for Islamic Museum reconstruction | SIS
  • Information Technology Support Center calls for legislation to protect personal data | Egypt Independent


Egypt charges forty over alleged Islamic State ties
Prosecutors referred forty people to criminal court on Sunday after an investigation revealed that they communicated with Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) fighters in Iraq and Syria, judicial sources said. The head of the south Sharqiya prosecution Belal Abu Khadra said that an investigation has “proven communication” between those referred to trial and the militant group. He said half of the defendants are in custody, while the other twenty remain at large. Meanwhile, the prosecution’s representative in Zagazig, the capital of the Nile Delta province of Sharqiya, said that the forty suspects referred to court have received military training in Syria in order to carry out “terrorist operations” inside Egypt. [AP, Aswat Masriya, 5/3/2015]

Five sentenced to death over Kerdasa police killings
A Giza court sentenced five people to death on Monday over complicity in violence in the town of Kerdasa in 2013. The defendants are charged with partaking in violence that led to the killing of eleven policemen, whose bodies were afterwards mutilated and two passersby. They also face charges of attempted murder of others, use of violence, possession of arms, assembly and vandalism. They were previously sentenced to death in a trial that saw death sentences handed to 183 people, 149 of whom were in custody at the time. However, these five defendants were handed the verdict in absentia. Once arrested, their trial procedures were restarted after they requested a retrial. Meanwhile, Giza Criminal Court has issued a death sentence against Anas Abd Rabbu Suleiman, convicted of joining and financing the Muslim Brotherhood. On Saturday, a juvenile criminal court in Cairo sentenced a sixteen-year-old boy to fifteen years in prison for making bombs. Prosecutors accused Nour al-Din Saleh, who was arrested at his home in Cairo in October last year, of blowing up a police vehicle, manufacturing bombs, and detonating them from a distance. In a separate case also on Saturday, the same court sentenced another fifteen-year-old boy to three years in prison for joining a banned group and manufacturing bombs. [Ahram Online, Anadolu Agency, Aswat Masriya, 5/4/2015]

Court upholds prison sentences for police officer, informants for torture
The Court of Cassation has upheld a three-year imprisonment sentence for a police officer and a one-year sentence for fourteen informants and a doctor, as well as a fine of EGP500 for another doctor, all charged with torture and forgery in 2006. The officer had ordered prisoners Said Kamel and Karim Abdel Tawab to be chained up and have boiling water poured on them at the Cairo Security Directorate headquarters, causing their deaths. He also forged a death certificate from the doctors without examining their bodies. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 5/4/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt to open investigations into porn star’s pictures at Giza pyramids | Ahram Online, Egypt Independent
  • Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis trial postponed to May 19 | DNE
  • Al-Masry fans protest Port Said Massacre trial death sentences | DNE
  • Company owner referred to trial over layoffs |Egypt Independent


Egypt issues tender for second LNG import terminal
Egypt has issued a five-year tender to lease a second liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal, as the country seeks to tackle an energy crisis. Egypt was once an energy exporter but declining oil and gas production and increasing consumption has forced the government to divert energy supplies to the domestic market, turning the country into a net energy importer. The floating regasification and import terminal, which converts supercooled LNG into gas, would be Egypt’s second. An import terminal from Norway’s Hoegh LNG arrived in April. [Reuters, 5/4/215]

Also of Interest

  • Stock market to upgrade systems after data breach | Mada Masr
  • CAPMAS: Energy sector produced 40.8 percent CO2 emissions in 2013-14 | Egypt Independent
  • Government to support innovation with EGP250 million fund | Egypt Independent
  • Saudi Arabia will pledge $2 billion to Egypt | Egypt Independent
  • Real estate projects funding in first quarter of 2015 reached EGP270 million | Egypt Independent
  • Government considers withdrawing 38 million square meters of land from Qatari Diar | Egypt Independent
  • Egypt’s central bank announces sale of $500 million on interbank market | Aswat Masriya


Over 100 documented violations against journalists from January to April says rights group
The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) documented 116 cases of violations against journalists in the first four months of 2015, according to a Sunday press release. The statement was released to mark World Press Freedom Day on Sunday. Documented violations occurred mostly in Cairo, and included physical assault, detention, imprisonment, physical injury and preventing journalists from performing their duty. The violations were carried out mostly by some members of the security apparatus, as well as government officials, and civilians. A day prior on Saturday, an Egyptian journalist was arrested from his home in the Nile Delta city of Behiera, his brother said. Mahmoud Qaoud said police took his brother Ahmed, who works for the daily al-Dostour, and confiscated three laptops and three mobile phones. The Arab Network for Human Rights and Information (ANHRI) condemnedQaoud’s arrest.  On Sunday, Atef Abdel Mawla, a journalist at al-Mesreyoonand Press Syndicate member, was also arrested from his home in Menoufiya after security forces broke into his home and assaulted him. Amnesty International issued a report on Sunday, saying Egyptian authorities are using the courts to stifle journalism. The report listed eighteen reporters and media workers jailed and dozens more facing criminal investigations. The Egyptian foreign ministry denied there had been any targeting of journalists. Meanwhile, the Press Syndicate dedicated World Press Freedom Day to the remembrance of all assaulted journalists, those killed, arrested, and those who remain detained. [DNE, Reuters, 5/3/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Without a hashtag: Egypt’s journalists forgotten behind bars | DNE
  • Clashes break out between students, security forces in 6th of October City: SAC | DNE
  • Egypt’s phosphate barge crisis is over says Irrigation minister | Ahram Online
  • Egypt’s 2015 ‘anti-workers’ Labor Day | DNE
  • Egyptian NGOs condemn ruling ‘criminalizing’ public servant strikes | Ahram Online, DNE
  • Labor unions and parties denounce government ‘bias’ against workers | DNE, Egypt Independent
  • 15 million Egyptians infected with Hepatitis C says Health Minister | Ahram Online, Egypt Independent
  • Wadi al-Rayan monks, Coptic Church face-off intensifies | DNE
  • Setting the stage: The 2012 Abbaseya clashes | DNE
  • Two Giza preachers banned for not acquiring permission for religious speech | DNE
  • Hundreds of torture cases in April says al-Nadeem Centre | DNE
  • Damietta fishermen protest against needing tracking devices to get licenses | Egypt Independent
  • Doctors’ Syndicate leader criticizes civil services law | Egypt Independent
  • Nagi Rashad says workers’ rights still denied  | Egypt Independent
  • Report shows less labor protests in 2014 | Egypt Independent
  • Report show 5 percent of Egyptians own 57 percent of agricultural land | Egypt Independent
  • Defunct NDP headquarters removed from antiquities list | Egypt Independent
  • Jordanian paper says Brotherhood plans to assassinate Morsi | Egypt Independent
  • 15,000 sailors reject fishing ban in Red Sea  | Egypt Independent
  • Ahmed Karima criticizes Grand Mufti for calling headscarf opponents ‘infidels’  | Egypt Independent
  • Revolutionary graffiti book still being held by authorities, publishers say | Mada Masr


Security upped at Gaza-Egypt borders to protect both territories says Hamas
Hamas are taking extra security measures to protect the Gaza-Egypt border to prevent anyone from harming the security of both territories, senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said on Friday.
“The security measures taken come out of our commitment and understanding that our struggle isn’t with our Arab and Muslim brothers but with the Israeli occupation,” Haniyeh stated during a Friday sermon at a mosque in Rafah. Haniyeh added that al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, are also playing a logistical role to protect the borders, German news agency DPA reported. He reaffirmed that his group Hamas doesn’t interfere in Egypt’s domestic affairs. “We stand at an equal distance from all sides of the Egyptian people.” [Ahram Online, 5/1/2015]

Army kills 115 suspected militants in North Sinai in April
Egypt’s armed forces has killed at least 115 suspected militants in North Sinai in April alone , the army spokesman announced on Saturday. Spokesman Mohamed Samir said in a statement that the army killed twenty-nine suspected militants in raids on North Sinai from April 20 to 30, and arrested twenty-seven wanted personnel and 106 suspects. Fifty-one “terrorist” headquarters were also destroyed, Samir added. The Tarabin tribe also captured four militants allegedly affiliated with Sinai-based militant group affiliated with the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL), Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM). The detained men were handed over to the Egyptian armed forces in North Sinai. Another twelve suspected ABM members were killed in a targeted military operation in North Sinai on Monday. Meanwhile, an army conscript was killed, and two conscripts and an officer injured, following a side-road bomb explosion targeting a military vehicle in the North Sinai town of al-Arish Sunday. ABM claimed responsibility for the attack. [Aswat Masriya, 5/4/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Bombing of electricity pylon halts traffic near Egypt’s Assiut | Ahram Online
  • Egypt controls fire in British container ship passing Suez Canal | Ahram Online
  • 145 Brotherhood members detained for bombing towers, fifty-two for blocking highway |Egypt Independent


Egypt extends deployment of army units in Gulf and Red Sea area for three months
Egypt’s government agreed Sunday to a defense ministry request to extend the deployment of Egyptian armed forces units in the Gulf area and Red Sea for another three months, or until the end of the Saudi-led operation in Yemen, whichever is earlier. In a short statement, the cabinet said that it accepted the request “for the sake of Egyptian and Arab national security.” The statement did not specify whether Egypt’s renewed mandate included the possibility of sending ground troops, and Saudi Arabia denied that any major ground operations in Yemen were underway. The spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri said on Sunday that the coalition “welcomes this step and confirms its importance in restoring the security and stability of Yemen.” A day before the announcement, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi headed to Saudi Arabia for quick talks with top Saudi leadership. The Saturday visit, which lasted less than ninety minutes, came in the framework of continuous coordination and consultations between the two countries, as Sisi and King Salman discussed bilateral ties and regional and international affairs. [Ahram Online, Reuters, SIS, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, MENA, 5/3/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt, China sign new weapons deal | DNE
  • German Foreign Minister shows Europe support for Egypt’s ‘counter terrorism’ plan |Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya
  • Shoukry, UN envoy in Palestine meeting | DNE, Aswat Masriya
  • Egypt, Rwanda enhance security cooperation | DNE
  • Sudan’s al-Bashir invites Egyptian President to inauguration ceremony | DNE
  • Ethiopian Foreign Minister arrives in Cairo for more dam talks | Ahram Online
  • Eighty-three Egyptians caught illegally crossing into Libya | Ahram Online
  • Egypt to carry out irrigation projects in South Sudan | Egypt Independent
  • Turkey stresses coordination before taking measures east of Mediterranean  | Egypt Independent
  • Three migrants killed after boat sinks off the coast of Egypt’s Beheira | Ahram Online, DNE, Reuters, AP