Friday, June 30, 2017


Sometimes you just have to break the rules :-)

*Photo courtesy of Fabulous Animals

Egyptian authorities now blocking over 100 websites

Quartz Africa
Egypt has blocked over 100 local and international websites including HuffPost and Medium

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Abdi Latif Dahir

The list of blocked websites in Egypt keeps growing, as the government widens what some say is an unprecedented crackdown on both local and international digital outlets. So far, 114 websites have been blocked in the north African nation since May 24, according to the latest figures from the non-governmental organization Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression.

A majority of these are news websites, but also included are platforms that can be used to access blocked sites or that allow for anonymous browsing and communication.

The affected websites include sites like Mada Masr, the financial newspaper Al Borsa, and Huffington Post Arabic. Twelve websites linked to Al Jazeera were also been blocked. Medium, the online publishing platform, was also banned.

The outage also affected Tor, the free software that provides users with online anonymity, and Tor bridges, which helps users circumvent the blocking of Tor itself. The website of the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI), an international network that monitors internship censorship and surveillance, was also blocked.  

The growing censorship comes as the government says it’s cracking down on websites that are “publishing false information” and “supporting terrorism.” (Link in Arabic) Egypt is currently in the midst of a three-month state emergency, following twin attacks on churches that killed almost 50 people in April.

The country is also part of a Saudi-led coalition that has put a blockade on Qatar, demanding, among other things, the closure of the Doha-based Al Jazeera media network which it considers to a be a propaganda tool for Islamists. The government of president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is also embroiled in a maritime demarcation agreement over its decision to vote on the transfer of two islands in the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia—a move that has angered many Egyptians.

However, journalists and activists say the campaign is suppressing free expression and voices critical of the government. Some are accusing the regime of failing to disclose any judicial or administrative decision to block the sites—or whether emergency law provisions were applied.

“Even in the darkest days of the repressive Mubarak era, the authorities didn’t cut off access to all independent news sites,” Najia Bounaim, Amnesty International’s north Africa campaigns director, said.

In a June 19 report, OONI stated that deep packet inspection technology was being used to monitor and block these websites. Mada Masr, one of the blocked sites, also reported that the decision to block the sites was carried through a “centralized decision” by the government rather than by the country’s telecoms or internet service providers.

Since going offline, sites like Mada have been publishing articles on Facebook. Lina Attallah, the editor of the site, said the strategy of blocking the sites works to the government’s advantage for now.

“If they did something more grave like arresting team members or me it would make big noise, whereas blocking the website is the best way to paralyze us without paying a high price for it,” Attallah told Reuters.

*Photo by Mohamed Abd El Ghany, courtesy of Reuters

Traitor Sisi ratifies agreement handing over two Egyptian islands to KSA

Mada Masr
Sisi ratifies Tiran and Sanafir agreement, cedes islands to Saudi Arabia

Saturday, 24 June 2017

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President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ratified the maritime border demarcation agreement that cedes sovereignty over Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia on Saturday, according to a Cabinet statement.

The Tiran and Sanafir agreement was passed with a majority in Parliament on June 14, with only 119 MPs voting against it.

Sisi was able to seal the deal with Saudi Arabia after the Supreme Constitutional Court temporarily froze two contradictory rulings, one issued by the State Council in January and the other by the Court of Urgent Matters in April, on Wednesday.

In June 2016 the State Council’s Court of Administrative Justice (CAJ) annulled the agreement signed by Prime Minister Sherif Ismail in April of the same year. This was followed by two Court of Urgent Matters rulings on September 29 and December 31 to overturn the CAJ’s decision.

However, on January 16, the State Council’s Supreme Administrative Court upheld the initial June ruling, stating that the deal was a concession of territory, an act that is prohibited per Article 151 of the Constitution. On April 2, the Court of Urgent Matters overturned the CAJ’s decision.

Several political parties and prominent politicians held a press conference on June 12, ahead of Parliament’s discussion of the deal, to announce a series of sit-ins protesting the agreement which many members of Egypt’s opposition hailed as unconstitutional.

The presser was attended by dozens of activists and members of several political parties, as well as former presidential candidates Hamdeen Sabbahi and Khaled Ali. Also in attendance were ousted chief of the Central Auditing Authority Hesham Geneina, expelled member of Parliament Mohamed Anwar Sadat, critical journalist Khaled al-Balshy, National Council for Human Rights member George Ishaq and former Ambassador Masoum Marzouk.

Following Parliament’s approval, hundreds of members of professional syndicates signed statements in opposition to the Tiran and Sanafir agreement, including 850 journalists, 620 members of the Engineers Syndicate’s general assembly and more than 600 members of the Cinema Syndicate, among others.

Since the June press conference security forces have carried out an extensive arrest campaign across several governorates, apprehending more than 120 activists and protesters seen to oppose the deal.

Court reduces 3-year sentences issued against 32 cement workers, to 2 months

Mada Masr
Appeals court reduces 3-year sentences for 32 Tourah Cement Company workers, upholds obstruction of justice charge

Monday, 19 June 2017

Jano Charbel

The three-year prison sentences handed to 32 Tourah Cement Company security workers earlier this month were reduced on Sunday to two months in a ruling by the Maadi Appeals Court.

Maadi Criminal Court announced the initial prison terms on June 4 on charges that asserted the workers had assaulted a police captain, obstructed justice and used violence to resist authorities.

According to the findings of the Maadi Appeals Court published by the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANRHI), the court dismissed all criminal charges leveled against the 32 workers in its Sunday ruling, except the charge of resisting authorities, as it found them guilty of obstructing police efforts to apprehend a wanted worker by collectively assisting in his escape.

Lawyer Gamal Eid, the director of the ANRHI, stated that the appeals court’s Sunday ruling represented a move “from grave injustice, to lesser injustice.”

The appeals court’s Sunday ruling was based on Article 375 of Egypt’s Penal Code. “Anyone who uses force, violence, terrorism, threats or illegal measures to attack or attempt to attack authorities is liable to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years and a fine not exceeding LE 100,” the article asserts.

The workers are currently being held in the 15th of May prison, located on the outskirts of Cairo.

Those implicate in the case were among the 75 full-time security personnel that initiated a sit-in in March, demanding full-time contracts and retroactive payment of wages, as some had worked full time at the company for up to 10 to 15 years on temporary or part-time contracts.

Police arrested 32 workers of the workers on the Tourah Cement Company’s grounds on May 22. The prosecutor referred them to trial the following day, and the court proceedings commenced on May 28.

The Tourah Cement Company – which had requested the deployment of police forces to disperse the workers’ sit-in protest – has not stated whether it will meet workers’ demands for full-time employment and benefits and reinstate those that have been arrested.

Lawyer Haiytham Mohamadein expressed skepticism that those who had been involved in the sit-in would be allowed back into the company, let alone be reinstated to their former jobs with full-time contracts and benefits. Mohamadein said that the Tourah Cement Company is seeking to employ new security workers through a private contracting company.

A host of organizations and individuals, both in Egypt and abroad, have expressed solidarity with the imprisoned Tourah Cement Company workers in a petition calling for the release of the 32 detainees.

Messages of international solidarity also have poured in from dozens of trade unionists and labor activists from Australia, Austria, Canada, Spain, UK, USA, among other countries.

The Tourah Cement Company workers are the latest labor group to be arrested and referred to trial for industrial action. In April, police arrested 16 protesting Telecom Egypt Company workers in Cairo, while in January police forces forcefully dispersed a sit-in at the IFFCO Oils Company in the Suez Governorate, briefly arresting scores of workers.

In December 2016, police were deployed to disperse two sit-ins at the privately owned Egyptian Fertilizers Company (EFC) and the Egyptian Basic Industries Corporation (EBIC), both of which are owned by the billionaire Nassif Sawiris.

In September 2016, police conducted dawn raids at the apartments of bus drivers from the Public Transport Authority who had been planning a partial strike, detaining six drivers, two of whom may still face trial. In May 2016, military police surrounded a sit-in led by Alexandria Shipyard Company workers and imposed a lockout on the company. Twenty-six civilian workers were referred to military trial.

Syndicates mobilize against handover of Tiran & Sanafir islands

Mada Masr
Syndicates mobilize against Tiran and Sanafir agreement

Monday, 19 June 2017

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Hundreds of members of professional syndicates have signed statements in opposition to Parliament’s recent approval of the Tiran and Sanafir agreement, brokered by Egypt and Saudi Arabia in April 2016.

Eight hundred and fifty journalists issued a statement on Sunday announcing that they reject the agreement, which concedes sovereignty over the two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, describing it as invalid and “demanding that state institutions respect the Constitution and the law, and the blood of martyrs who defended Egyptian land.”

The Journalists Syndicate announced that it would launch an investigation into the sit-in held in its headquarters on Wednesday, protesting the agreement.

Hatem Zakareya, a member of the syndicate’s board, told Mada Masr that no request was submitted before the protest, in violation of the syndicate’s bylaws. He added that investigations will also be launched into footage aired on Al Jazeera and other pro-Muslim Brotherhood channels from inside the building and its entrance showing non-syndicate members attending the protest.

Gamal Abdel Rehim, one of four syndicate board members who signed a statement rejecting the agreement, told Mada Masr that allegations that Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated channels entered the syndicate are untrue, arguing that it is not necessary to submit a request before initiating sit-ins at the syndicate.

“Never in the history of the syndicate has any group submitted a request to start a sit-in,” he said, adding that it is common for non-syndicate members to join political action taking place within the syndicate.

A statement was also signed by 620 members of the Engineers Syndicate’s general assembly denouncing the deal, labeling it unconstitutional. The statement criticized “attempts to pressure opposition and the blocking of websites that attempt to reveal the truth of the matter.”

The statement mirrors that issued by the Journalists Syndicate, calling on citizens to exercise their constitutional right to express their opinions peacefully “in defense of the blood of the martyrs who died to defend the unity of Egyptian land.”

Head of the Engineers Syndicate Tarek al-Nabarawy said last Friday that in his personal opinion the islands are Egyptian, adding that the syndicate should not be involved in politics.

Akram Ismail, member of the Engineers Syndicate and the Bread and Freedom Party told Mada Masr: “Major national causes cannot be separated from syndicate work,” adding that syndicates, parties and social media are the only remaining platforms for political action following the crackdown on the street movement and blocking of websites.

Ismail said that the fact that three leading figures in the syndicate expressed their opposition to the agreement on their personal Facebook pages indicates the syndicate’s position, even if no official statement was made.

Members of the Cinema Syndicate also released a statement inviting people to protest the transfer of the islands “using all peaceful and legal means.”

They called for a protest at their headquarters on Saturday to oppose the agreement, however the protest was canceled due to the heavy security presence in the area.

Six members of the Doctors Syndicate board also announced their opposition to the agreement in a statement. However Mona Mina, the syndicate’s secretary general, wrote on her Facebook page: “As a vocational institution, the syndicate has nothing to do with this important political and national cause.”

Members of the Lawyers Syndicate also held a protest inside syndicate headquarters on Tuesday to express their objection.

Since discussions of the maritime border agreement reached Parliament, security forces have carried out an extensive arrest campaign across several governorates, targeting activists and protesters opposing the deal.

Egypt authorities refuse presence of Italy prosecutors during questioning of police who probed Giulio Regeni

Egypt No to Italy Regeni prosecutors 

Slain researchers' parents meet Pignatone

Friday, 16 June 2017

(ANSA) - Rome  - Egyptian authorities have turned down a request from Rome prosecutors probing the Cairo torture and murder of Giulio Regeni to be present at the questioning of Egyptian police officers who carried out investigations into the Friuli-born Cambridge University researcher.   

They said Egyptian law forbids the presence of foreign magistrates during judicial activity. Regeni's parents Claudio and Paola were informed of the refusal during a meeting Friday with Rome chief prosecutor Giuseppe Pignatone and his assistant Sergio Colaiocco.  

Cairo prosecutors have, however, sent their Italian counterparts a second report on testimony from the seven policemen who probed Regeni, who disappeared on January 25 2016 and whose mutilated body was found on the road to Alexandria eight days later.   

The testimony is a summary of what the agents said and not their testimony in full, judicial sources said.   

Italian magistrates are hoping for a third tranche of documents, starting with questioning of the national security chief who investigated Regeni a few days before his disappearance, as well as testimony given in March 2016 by the agent who searched the home of the alleged head of a kidnapping gang suspected of abducting and robbing foreigners.

Regeni, 28, went missing in the Egyptian capital on January 25, 2016, on the heavily policed fifth anniversary of the uprising that ousted former strongman and president Hosni Mubarak.

His severely tortured, mutilated body was found on February 3 in a ditch on the city's outskirts.   

Egypt has denied speculation its security forces, who are frequently accused of brutally repressing opposition, were involved in the death of the Cambridge doctoral student.

Regeni was researching street vendors' trade unions, a sensitive topic.   

Egyptian and Italian prosecutors have been working on the case but Rome has yet to send a new ambassador to Cairo in protest at the lack of progress.

"Italy has mourned the killing of one of its studious young people, Giulio Regeni, without full light being shed on this tragic case for a year and despite the intense efforts of our judiciary and our diplomacy," President Sergio Mattarella said on the first anniversary of Regeni's disappearance.   

"We call for broader and more effective cooperation so that the culprits are brought to justice".   

Premier Paolo Gentiloni expressed his support for Regeni's family and said his government was determined to get to the truth.   

Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano echoed his words and said that the young man's death "deprives all of us of a generous heart that could have done a great deal for others".   

The message on the foreign ministry website said that "the tragic death of Giulio Regeni is still an open wound not only for his family, who remain in our thoughts, but for our entire country."   

A video recently surfaced in which the head of the Cairo street traders' union, Mohammed Abdallah, secretly filmed Regeni asking him questions about the union using a police shirt-button microcamera.

Abdallah said he was doing his patriotic duty because Regeni, he said, was a spy.   

Egypt has furnished several explanations for Regeni's death ranging from a car accident to a gay fight to a kidnapping, all of which have been dismissed by Italy. 

Suspicion has fallen on seven members of the Egyptian police and intelligence services who used Abdallah as an informant and who later were responsible for wiping out the alleged kidnapping gang.   

Regeni's personal documents were allegedly found in the house of the sister of one of the alleged gang's members.    

There seem to have been signs of Egyptian cooperation on Giulio Regeni's death thanks to the work of Rome prosecutors but there is absolutely no evidence of true cooperation from Egyptian authorities, Regeni's parents said recently.   

Paola and Claudio Regeni urged that Italy's ambassador to Cairo not return to Egypt, since this "would give a signal of detente that must not be given", and stressed the importance of not sending Egypt spare parts for F35 fighter jets until justice has been served.

At least 60 opponents arrested in connection to Tiran & Sanafir handover

Mada Masr
Rights Monitor: Police have arrested 60 opponents of the Tiran and Sanafir agreement 

Friday, 16 June 2017

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Police have arrested a total of 60 people connected to political action against the agreement to concede sovereignty over Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia, according to the Freedom for the Brave campaign.

The nationwide arrests commenced after Parliament approved the agreement on Wednesday night, with police moving to detain political activists and party members in Cairo, Alexandria, Damietta, Sharqiya, Beni Suef, Fayoum, Luxor, Port Said and Suez.

Lawyer Mohamed Abdel Aziz told Mada Masr that those arrested come from several political parties, including the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, the Constitution Party, the Bread and Freedom Party, the Popular Current Party and the Karama Party, as well as from Egypt’s independent activist community, all of whom voiced their opposition to the agreement.

According to Abdel Aziz, security forces arrested many of the activists and party members from their homes, including Hassan Ahwany who is being questioned by the Dokki prosecution in Cairo and is being represented by Abdel Aziz.

Many of those arrested will be questioned by prosecutors on Friday, including six people who were arrested in Port Said and Tanta, according to the Front to Defend Egyptian Protesters.

The FDEP has added that activists Mahmoud Nagib and Israa Fahid face charges of incitement to protest and obstructing public transportation, and that three people arrested in Luxor on Thursday are in the National Security Agency’s custody. In Ismailia, Constitution Party member Ahmed Santos was questioned by the prosecutor, who has issued Santos a 15-day detention order pending an NSA report.

According to lawyer Abdel Aziz Yousef, the prosecutor issued Egyptian Social Democratic Party member Islam Marei a 15-day detention order pending investigation into charges of incitement against the regime; insulting state institutions, including the Armed Forces, police and the judiciary; distributing anti-government flyers; and using social networks for incitement against state institutions.

Abdel Aziz described the arrests as “ferocious,” saying security forces are attempting to prevent any mobilization against the Tiran and Sanafir agreement. The scope of the arrests, he asserted, is disproportionate to the protests that have taken place in reaction to the agreement.

Police arrested eight people in the proximity of the Journalists Syndicate’s headquarters in downtown Cairo on Wednesday night, which was the site of a protest against the Tiran and Sanafir agreement. All eight were released yesterday on LE10,000 bail.

Police also dispersed a demonstration on Wednesday in front of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party’s headquarters in downtown Cairo, barricading the protesters inside the building, according party member Ziad al-Eleimi.