Top News: US Urges Egypt to Pardon Journalists; Sisi Refuses to Interfere in Judicial Rulings

In a statement issued on Monday, the White House condemned the sentencing in Egypt of three Al Jazeera journalists, and fifteen others, to seven to ten years in jail for aiding a “terrorist” organization. Sisi, however, said on Tuesday he will not interfere in court rulings, rebuffing calls from the United States and other Western governments.


Political parties, legislators deadlocked over parliamentary elections bill
A contentious draft law governing parliamentary elections is expected to be one of the first major challenges for President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi to overcome. A major bone of contention in the draft law is the mixed parliamentary system, whereby eighty percent of the seats are elected for single candidates and twenty percent are reserved for party lists. Critics warn that this system could once again empower individuals with traditional bases of support, such as money, power networks and tribal connections, which they would use to mobilize voters and thus turn the elections into a contest between people, not political ideas. The geographical division of the party lists’ constituencies has also drawn serious criticism from political parties. [Mada Masr, 6/23/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • Nour Party welcomes disbanded NDP members on it electoral lists | Egypt Independent
  • Nour Party: Sisi sets example for good citizens | Ahram Gateway (Arabic)
  • PM decides to form national council for social dialogue | SIS
  • Sisi hails martyrs of police, army, people | SIS, Ahram Gateway (Arabic)


Journalist sentenced five years for reporting sectarian violence; Christian sentenced to six years for blasphemy
A court in Upper Egypt has sentenced journalist Bishoy Armia to five years in prison and a fine of EGP500 ($69) for inciting sectarian strife, Al-Ahram reported on Monday. Armia, who was born Mohamed Hegazy al-Sayed and converted to Christianity in 2008, was also charged with “depicting Christians as suffering from sectarian oppression” and for “reporting misinformation” to US-based television channel Al Tariq. According to Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Armia was arrested after covering two sectarian incidents between Christians and Muslims in two villages in Minya. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, a Luxor court sentenced Kerolos Ghattas, an Egyptian Christian, to six years imprisonment for blasphemy and contempt of religion. His conviction came after his arrest earlier this month for posting pictures deemed insulting to Islam on his Facebook page. [DNE, Mada Masr, Shorouk (Arabic), 6/24/2014]

Mansoura court sentences twenty-four Brotherhood supporters to life in prison
The Mansoura Criminal Court sentenced twenty-four people to life in prison on Monday for killing a driver during a protest in December. The defendants, identified as Muslim Brotherhood supporters, were found guilty of killing the man while protesting against the military-backed interim government appointed after the fall of former President Mohamed Morsi. One other defendant in the case was sentenced to seven years in prison, while one minor was referred to a juvenile detention facility. Meanwhile, over 200 people were sentenced to varied prison terms in separate cases by the Mansoura Criminal Court, in the governorate of Daqahliyah, on Monday. A group of 195 were sentenced in separate cases for charges of illegal assembly, blocking roads, disrupting transport, vandalism, possessing firearms, ammunition, melee weapons and Molotov cocktails, and attempted murder. Life sentences were handed to 59 of the defendants and 56 sentenced to one year prison with labor. [Mada Masr, 6/23/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • Prosecution asked for EGP1.2 million to hand in the evidence, says brother of Marriott Cell suspect | Egypt Independent
  • Reporter’s father says stunned by Egypt decision | AP, Reuters
  • Two men face year in prison for sexual harassment | DNE, Mada Masr
  • Trial of 494 Brotherhood members for attack on mosque to take place July 16 | EGYNews (Arabic), Aswat Masriya (Arabic)
  • Trial of Brotherhood leaders in Damanhur postponed | EGYNews (Arabic)
  • Four Brotherhood members arrested for attack on police station EGYNews (Arabic)
  • Lawsuits regarding freezing Brotherhood funds and activities postponed | AMAY (Arabic)
  • Egyptian court shoots down prior ruling to seize 20 alleged Brotherhood schools | Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya (Arabic)


Sisi says will donate 50 percent of his salary and wealth to Egypt’s economy
In a televised speech held during the graduating military students’ commencement ceremony, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said he will give up half of his monthly EGP 42,000 ($5,800) salary and half of his wealth to assist Egypt through its economic challenges. Sisi said he has refused to ratify the 2014-2015 state budget which, in its present form, would raise the total domestic debt to over EGP 2 trillion. The current domestic debt stands at EGP 1.7 trillion. He said he asked the government to decrease the deficit, but holds people responsible for handling the crisis along with it. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, Reuters, EGYNews (Arabic), 6/24/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • Precautionary measures on Egypt bourse to be removed, stocks head down | Ahram Online
  • Sisi stalls the 2014/15 state budget on domestic debt concerns | Ahram Online
  • Egypt’s stock market sees lowest turnover in a year | Ahram Online
  • Government agencies owe petroleum ministry total of EGP 160bn: Ministry official | DNE
  • Government to submit new budget to Sisi | Egypt Independent
  • Egypt strategic wheat stocks enough to last six months – official | Reuters
  • Egypt’s central bank to open account to receive donations to support the economy | EGYNews (Arabic), Aswat Masriya (Arabic)
  • Minister of Industry: distributive justice is factor to reduce disparities | Shorouk (Arabic)
  • Union workers demand hearing on wages | Aswat Masriya (Arabic)


Rights groups condemn renewed detention for Ittihadiya protesters
Twelve Egyptian human rights groups have issued a joint statement condemning what they say were fabricated charges levied against a group of protesters arrested on Saturday. The NGOs accused the prosecution of levelling “fabricated charges that include: assembly, obstructing the enforcement of the law, participating in an unauthorized protest, damaging public property, possession of incendiary material and the show of force in the aim of terrorizing citizens.” Among the signatories were the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, Nadeem Center for the Psychological Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture, the Arab Penal Reform Organization, and the Association for Freedom of Thoughts and Expression. [Ahram Online, Mada Masr, Shorouk (Arabic), 6/23/2014]

Muted response from Egypt’s Journalist Syndicate over Al Jazeera verdict
The board of Egypt’s Journalists Syndicate issued a statement on Monday regarding the sentencing of three Al-Jazeera journalists to seven to ten years in a maximum security prison, state news agency MENA reported. The board said it respects the principle of not commenting on the judiciary’s verdicts, adding that the verdict is not final and can still be appealed in the Court of Cassation. The statement added that Egypt’s constitution affirms the independence of the media and press and guarantees the protection of journalists and media personnel while doing their jobs. Meanwhile, Mada Masr reported that while international press was outraged by yesterday’s verdict for Al-Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed, local Egyptian press took up a more reserved position, condemning the international criticism. [Ahram Online, 6/23/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • Egypt announces highest state awards | Ahram Online
  • Egypt’s Alaa al-Aswany to discontinue writing weekly column | Ahram Online
  • Human rights groups push for torture allegations investigation | DNE
  • Nazra condemns targeting, detention of women’s rights activists | DNE
  • Youth against Coup vows uprising | Egypt Independent
  • Interior Ministry pressures ban of series criticizing police | Egypt Independent
  • Sisi attends graduation ceremony of Military Academy cadets | SIS
  • Committee formed to manage public hospital | Shorouk (Arabic)


Defense Minister meets with UAE Chief of Staff
Defense Minister Sedki Sobhi met Tuesday with Hamad Thani al-Rumaithi, Chief of Staff of the UAE Armed Forces. Sobhi stated that the armed forces are keen to support the pillars of military cooperation and joint action with the UAE, and praised the UAE’s support for Egypt and the strong ties between the two countries. Rumaithi emphasized Egypt’s important role in terms of the region’s stability and security, and said that he looked forward to future security cooperation between the two countries’ armed forces. [Ahram Gateway (Arabic), Shorouk  (Arabic), 6/24/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • Mahlab attends funeral of officer killed in Sohag | EGYNews (Arabic), Ahram Gateway (Arabic)
  • Explosive device detonated in North Sinai | Shorouk (Arabic)


Egyptian ambassadors prepare for backlash over Al Jazeera verdict
Egyptian ambassadors worldwide are bracing for a diplomatic storm following Monday’s sentencing of three Al Jazeera journalists in Cairo, with the country’s foreign minister directing envoys on “pre-emptive” measures, according to a statement from the foreign ministry. Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry has already ordered Egyptian embassies abroad to request urgent meetings with foreign affairs officials in the countries in which they are based, said a statement on the ministry’s website. Shoukry’s directions include handing foreign ministers a translated statement from Egypt’s prosecutor-general explaining the circumstances behind the journalists’ arrests and the charges brought to them. The ministry also issued a statement expressing its objection to foreign criticism of Egypt’s judiciary and its rulings. [Ahram Online, SIS, Reuters, 6/23/2014]

UK appoints new ambassador to Egypt
John Casson has been appointed UK ambassador to Egypt, replacing James Watt who is retiring from the diplomatic service. Casson, who has been UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s private secretary for foreign affairs since 2010,  will officially receive his post in August. Casson says his country has a deep interest in Egypt’s political, security and economic success. “Egypt’s current period of challenge and change will shape the long-term future for Egyptians, and will be pivotal for the region,” he said in a statement issued after the announcement of his appointment. He previously served as deputy ambassador in Jordan and head of the Foreign Ministry’s Near East and North Africa Department [Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, 6/24/2014]

US urges Egypt to pardon journalists; Sisi refuses to interfere in judicial rulings
In a statement issued on Monday, the White House condemned the sentencing in Egypt of three Al Jazeera journalists, and fifteen others, to seven to ten years in jail for aiding a “terrorist” organization. The United States called on Egypt to pardon the defendants, or commute their sentences. US Secretary of State John Kerry phoned Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on Monday to register Washington’s “serious displeasure” with the verdict, which he described as “chilling” and “draconian.” Australian Foreign Minister summoned a senior Egyptian diplomat Tuesday to protest the sentencing of Australian citizen Peter Greste, while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay joined other nations in expressing concern over the verdicts. Sisi, however, said on Tuesday he will not interfere in court rulings, rebuffing calls from the United States and other Western governments. “We must respect judicial rulings and not criticize them even if others do not understand this,” he said.
[AFP, The Guardian, DNE, Reuters, Ahram Gateway (Arabic), 6/24/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • UK media in one-minute silence protest over jailing of Al-Jazeera journalists | The Guardian
  • Saudi and Egypt biggest markets for UK arms despite human rights breaches | The Guardian
  • FM: Africa has always been top priority for Egypt | SIS
  • Azhar Sheikh urges Iraqi people to unite | SIS
  • Saudi Cabinet praises Sisi for appreciating Custodian of Two Holy Mosques | SIS
  • Arab Lawyers Union condemns western campaign aimed at comprising independence of Egypt’s judiciary | Ahram Gateway (Arabic)