Monday, November 30, 2015

Egypt: In one week, three cases of torture & deaths in police custody


Ahram Online

Egypt policeman accused of torture, murder transferred from Luxor post

Saturday 28 Nov 2015

Media reports citing security sources have suggested that the policeman accused of torturing a man to death in Luxor earlier this week has been transferred from his post at the El-Awameya police station.

On Friday, hundreds marched across Luxor to protest the death of Talaat Shabeeb, with demonstrators chanting anti-police slogans and demanding the dismissal of the head of the El-Awameya police station where the victim was being held.

The prosecutor-general has opened an investigation into the case and the forensic authority has been tasked with determining the cause of death.

On Thursday, Luxor’s prosecutor-general ordered the release of 24 people who were arrested on Wednesday night after demonstrators clashed with police outside El-Awameya police station over Shabeeb’s death.

There have been unconfirmed reports on Saturday that Luxor Security Directorate officers will stage a vigil later tonight to offer condolences to Shabeeb’s family.

Security officials had said on Wednesday that the 47-year-old Shabeeb, a father of four, was arrested at a local El-Awameya café for the illegal possession of prescription painkillers, and had later fallen ill before being taken to Luxor International Hospital where he died.

In a press statement released shortly after his death, the head of Luxor security Essam El-Hamali claimed that Shabeeb was a drug dealer and had a criminal record.

Shabeeb's family, however, claims that Shabeeb was in fact arrested over a personal dispute with a policeman, and not for drug possession.

The family denied that Shabeeb was a drug dealer, stating that he worked as a papyrus vendor at Luxor's ancient temples.

Shabeeb’s family also claims that Shabeeb died at the police station, not the hospital, half an hour after his arrest.

A video and photos of Shabeeb's dead body have been released online by his family, showing what the family says are signs he sustained beatings before he died.

Ahram Online could not independently verify the authenticity of the footage.

The family also released a copy of what they say is a hospital medical report stating that Shabeeb was already dead upon arriving at the hospital.

The assistant to the interior minister for media and public relations, Major General Abu Bakr Abdel-Karim, has repeatedly stated that if any policeman is found guilty of wrongdoing, they will be held accountable.

Some locals in Luxor, Upper Egypt, have set up a Facebook page titled "We are Talaat Shabeeb."

Shabeeb’s case is the third in Egypt involving allegations of police abuse over the past week, with the latest involving an Ismailiya policeman who is accused of torturing a man to death while he was in police custody.

On Thursday, another police officer was detained in Greater Cairo for four days pending an investigation into allegations of assault and abuse of power. The officer is being accused of assaulting a bus driver in the satellite city of 6 October over a traffic dispute, as well as conducting a false arrest and filing a false police report accusing the driver of illicit drug possession.

Torture is prohibited by Egypt's 2014 constitution, with Article 52 stating that "torture in all its forms is a crime without a statute of limitations."

However, local and international rights group have said that torture by security forces remains prevalent in Egypt.

Troops shoot dead another 5 Sudanese migrants, wound several others by border with Israel

Monday, November 23, 2015

Egyptian border guards shot dead at least five Sudanese migrants and injured several others as they attempted to cross into Israel from North Sinai, according to a Ministry of Defense statement released on Monday.

Reports suggest that six people may have died, with up to 17 others injured. Five others were reportedly arrested after the incident.

Associated Press reported that six Sudanese migrants were killed while the wounded were later transferred to a hospital in Rafah. Agence France-Presse also reported six dead.

The Defense Ministry's statement reported that security forces “succeeded in foiling an attempt to infiltrate the international border in the north-east” of the country.

The shooting reportedly took place around dawn on Monday, although the exact location where it happened is as yet unknown.

The ministry’s statement claimed that Egyptian border guards fired “several” warning shots as smugglers prepared a group of Sudanese migrants to cross the border with Israel.

After the warning shots were fired, the statement continued, the smugglers responded with live fire.
A conscript was wounded during the shoot-out, according to the Defense Ministry statement.

The latest border deaths come just one week after another 15 Sudanese migrants were shot dead in North Sinai, with conflicting reports suggesting that they were either killed by border guards or in a cross-fire between security forces and Bedouin smugglers. The November 15 incident also happened as the migrants attempted to cross the border into Israel.

Egypt has in the past been fiercely criticized for a “shoot-to-stop” policy enforced along the border with Israel, which has cost the lives of dozens of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants hoping to find international protection or job opportunities in Israel.

According to a 2008 report by Human Rights Watch, Egyptian security forces shot at least 33 African migrants on the border between 2007 and 2008.

After 2009, North Sinai would later see hundreds of victims of trafficking, usually from Eritrea, kidnapped and then trafficked towards the border area in order to be tortured for vast amounts of ransom money.

It is thought this trafficking route was significantly hampered by the intensified security presence in North Sinai after 2013, and may have since moved west towards Libya, according to the US State Department’s 2015 report on global trafficking trends.

Although it appears refugees, asylum seekers and migrants from the Horn of Africa are still making the perilous journey towards Israel, the flow of Sudanese and other African migrants dropped significantly after 2011, when Israel fortified its border with Egypt using surveillance cameras, motion detectors and radar.

Egypt has meanwhile attracted criticism from Sudanese officials and newspapers, following growing reports of abuse and mistreatment by Sudanese nationals at the hands of Egyptian security forces.

Last week, the Sudanese Embassy in Cairo sent a letter to Egypt’s Foreign Affairs Ministry decrying security campaigns targeting Sudanese nationals in Egypt, who they say are increasingly subjected to searches and detention.

The embassy accused Egyptian security forces of mistreating its nationals, and noted that the ministry had not responded to an earlier letter on the matter sent at the beginning of the month.

Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid told a Sudanese newspaper on Monday that officials are looking into the embassy’s complaint, but he denied that Sudanese nationals in Egypt were being systematically targeted.

Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party has issued statements over the past couple days calling on Egyptian authorities to investigate the growing number of incidents and to immediately end such violations.

*Photo courtesy of the Associated Press

Sudan enraged as citizens arrested, tortured & killed in Egypt

Mada Masr
Sudan enraged by reports of Sudanese citizens arrested, tortured, killed in Egypt

November 18, 2015 

Sudan was outraged by the arrest, abuse and killing of Sudanese nationals in Egypt over the past few weeks, with a slew of social media campaigns, diplomatic statements and newspaper articles castigating the Egyptian authorities for what they say is a systematic campaign against them.

The Sudanese Embassy in Cairo sent a letter to Egypt’s Foreign Affairs Ministry on Friday decrying security campaigns targeting Sudanese nationals in Egypt, who they say are increasingly subjected to searches and detention. The embassy accused Egyptian security forces of mistreating its nationals, and noted that the ministry had not responded to an earlier letter on the matter sent at the beginning of the month.

Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid told a Sudanese newspaper on Monday that officials are looking into the embassy’s complaint, but he denied that Sudanese nationals in Egypt were being systematically targeted.

The Sudanese citizens who were arrested recently were suspected of illegally trading currency, Abu Zeid claimed, and were arrested alongside people of several other nationalities, including Egyptians.

Yehia Zakareya, a 50-year-old Sudanese man who was arrested after bringing his son to Egypt for surgery, gave an account of his arrest on Facebook that circulated widely online and enraged the Sudanese public.

Zakareya said he was arrested with another Sudanese man as they were leaving a currency exchange office in downtown Cairo’s Talaat Harb Square. He said they were taken to the Abdeen police station, where they were assaulted and tortured. Police also allegedly confiscated the US$500 Zakareya was carrying to pay for his son’s operation.

In pictures attached to his testimony, Zakareya appears to have bloodied eyes and bruises and burn marks on his arms and legs.

Zakareya said that he was then taken to the prosecutor, who ordered his release the next day and the return of his money. But instead, Zakareya was taken back to the police station pending national security checks.  He said for the next three days security forces continued to torture him, burning him with cigarettes and beating him with their boots.

He was eventually escorted to the airport, then flew back to Sudan after contacting family members to attend to his ill son in Cairo.

Social media campaigns were launched calling for Egyptians to be expelled from Sudan and a general boycott of Egyptian products. Social media users criticized the lack of a serious official response, and exhorted all Sudanese people to stand up for their dignity.

The Sudanese Al-Jareeda newspaper reported that the Sudanese parliament is waiting for Egyptian officials to comment on the arrest of hundreds of Sudanese nationals in the last few weeks, but all options are currently open in terms of the measures Sudanese authorities could take in response.

Ahmed Badawy, who works with the Egyptian Foundation for Refugee Rights, told Mada Masr that the surge in inspection campaigns targeting refugees and other foreigners started last month, ahead of the parliamentary elections.

The violations mostly target Sudanese people on tourist visas, rather than refugees registered with the United Nations, he said.

Mohamed Abdel Latif, a field researcher for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, confirmed that the crackdown mainly targets unregistered visitors who do not have protection and support from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

“Many of the arrests and the detentions of Sudanese people are associated with their attempt to cross the Mediterranean,” he said. Abdel Latif has documented several cases of migrants and refugees who were intercepted by police while attempting to leave the country, and were accused of belonging to smuggling networks.

In 2005, Egyptian security forces killed dozens of Sudanese refugees while violently dispersing a sit-in they were holding in Mostafa Mahmoud Square, where they had protested the government’s order to deport them back to Sudan.

Since then, a wave of Sudanese migrants and refugees have attempted to flee to Israel via Sinai.

Many people trying to cross the border have been shot or detained by Egyptian guards.

When Egyptian police forces shot 15 Sudanese people dead at the Egypt-Israel border earlier this week, outrage in Sudan mounted even further.

The number of Sudanese people attempting to cross the Sinai border has dropped recently, however, due to rising violence in the peninsula after the Armed Forces declared war against militant groups there.

Egyptian troops shoot dead 15 Sudanese migrants, wound 8 others on border with Israel

Mada Masr
15 Sudanese migrants killed by security forces on Egypt's border with Israel

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Egyptian border guards killed 15 Sudanese migrants at the Sinai border with Israel on Sunday as they were reportedly caught in the crossfire between security forces and Bedouin traffickers, according to the Associated Press. 

They were killed 17 kilometers South of Rafah City, where eight others were also shot in the chest and abdomen as they attempted to jump the border fence, AP reported, quoting unnamed security and hospital sources in the Sinai Peninsula.

Those injured are now being interrogated, after reportedly ignoring warning shots by security forces, AP added.

There has been little coverage of this fatal incident in Egyptian media or by government and security officials.

The privately owned Cairo News Portal issued a similar report, citing Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Israeli radio.

The incident is one of the bloodiest since December 2005, when Egyptian police forces killed 23 Sudanese nationals — including women, children, and the elderly — who had established a protest camp in the Mohandiseen district of Cairo. Consequently, many have sought asylum in Israel since 2006.

According to figures compiled by Human Rights Watch, Egyptian forces killed 10 people attempting to cross the border with Israel throughout 2007. In 2008, another 23 Sudanese and Sub-Saharan Africans were killed by Egyptian forces, and many others have experienced severe physical and psychological abuse from human traffickers.

Israel’s Interior Ministry claims there are over 45,000 African migrants in the country, most of whom are Sudanese and Eritrean refugees who have fled war and violence, although Israel classes them predominantly as economic migrants. Many have cited discrimination and threats of deportation by the Israeli state.

From 2011 to its completion in 2013, Israel fortified its border with Egypt by building a barrier equipped with cameras, motion detectors and radar to keep people from crossing.

*Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Russia plane crash due to terrorist attack - Russian Federal Security Service

RT News

Plane crash in Sinai a terrorist attack - Russian Security Service

17 Nov, 2015 

The Russian plane crash in Sinai, Egypt, was caused by a terrorist attack as traces of explosives have been found in the wreckage of the plane, Federal Security Service director Aleksandr Bortnikov told President Vladimir Putin.

“We can say that that [Sinai plane crash] was a terror act,” Bortnikov told Putin. According to the FSB chief, experts analyzed passengers’ belongings as well as the parts of the plane. “After the examination on all these objects, we have found traces of a foreign-made explosive substance,” Bortnikov said.

“During the flight, a homemade device with the power of 1.5 kilograms of TNT was detonated. As a result, the plane fell apart in the air, which can be explained by the huge scattering of the fuselage parts of the plane,” he added.

This not the first time that Russia has faced “barbarous terrorist crimes, more often without apparent causes, outside or domestic, as it was with the explosion at the railway station in Volgograd at the end of 2013,” He added: “We haven’t forgotten anything or anyone. The murder of our nationals in Sinai is among the bloodiest crimes in [terms of] the number of casualties.”

But Russia won’t be “wiping tears from our soul and heart,” he said. “This [tragedy] will stay with us forever. But this won’t stop us from finding and punishing the culprit.”

Vladimir Putin has vowed to find and punish the culprits behind the Sinai plane attack. “Our military work in Syria must not only continue. It must be strengthened in such a way so that the terrorists will understand that retribution is inevitable,” he said.

The Federal Security Service director also announced a reward of $50 million for information on those behind the terror attack on the A321.

The Russian president asked the Foreign Ministry to “call on all our [foreign] partners” to assist in the search for the terrorists behind the attack. “We look forward in the course of this work to [help from] all our friends, including in finding and punishing the criminals," he added.
Russia will act in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter, which provides for countries’ right to self-defense, Putin said. “Those who attempt to assist criminals should be aware that the consequences of such attempts will be entirely their responsibility,” he added.

The Kogalymavia A321 air crash took place over the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt on October 31. All 224 people on board the plane were killed, making it the deadliest air accident in modern Russian aviation history.

*Photo by Alaa El Kassas, courtesy of Getty Images

Workers question state claims of only 12.8% unemployment rate

Mada Masr

Workers question official statistics on unemployment figures

Monday, November 16, 2015

Jano Charbel 

According to figures published on Sunday by the state’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), unemployment increased slightly in the third quarter of 2015, affecting 12.8 percent of the Egyptian workforce.

CAPMAS reports there are currently 3.6 million unemployed Egyptians. According to these findings, the Egyptian workforce currently numbers around 28 million (from a total domestic population of over 89.4 million, with another eight million reportedly living abroad.)

Worker and labor rights activists, however, are questioning CAPMAS’s latest figures, claiming they are inaccurate.

CAPMAS indicates that 12.8 percent represents a minor increase in the national unemployment rate, as the second quarter of 2015 had registered a rate of 12.7 percent. This increase translates into 78,000 additional unemployed workers and employees in the third quarter of this year.

The figures do show improvement compared to the same quarter last year, when the official unemployment rate was 13.1 percent.

However, Fatma Ramadan, an industrial-safety inspector at the Ministry of Manpower and independent union organizer, believes that the unemployment figures cited by CAPMAS "are inaccurate and have been largely downplayed."

“The real unemployment rate may be up to double that which they are currently claiming,” she asserts.

"We demand genuine and accurate statistics regarding unemployment, so that we can find genuine solutions to this national problem,” Ramadan explains.

“Apparently, this unemployment rate doesn't include or take into account factors such as seasonal unemployment, temporary employment, masked and hidden unemployment, or child labor.”

Among those not accounted for within the statistics are homemakers, domestic help, and many other workers in the informal sector.

“CAPMAS calculates unemployment rates based on the numbers of those actively seeking employment — primarily at the offices of the Ministry of Manpower," Ramadan explains. “What typically happens is that if a jobless worker doesn’t find a job opportunity through the ministry, they don’t keep coming back.”

Ramadan adds that these workers may instead seek job opportunities via private employment firms, or informal networks.

Ramadan highlighted in particular the mass-layoffs associated with the closure of hundreds of state-owned factories since the 2011 revolution, adding that only a trivial number of new factories or industries are being established.

“The government is not concerned with the plight of unemployed workers, and this is reflected in the lack of implementation of judicial verdicts demanding that stalled public sector companies be re-operated, and that thousands of workers be reinstated,” Ramadan argues.

Proportional to the workforce, the unemployment rate in urban areas of Cairo currently amounts to 15 percent while in rural areas it reportedly amounts to 11.2 percent. These rates are gradually increasing – in both the countryside and cities – in comparison to the past four quarters.

CAPMAS issued additional details regarding the unemployment rate. According to its breakdown, 9.3 percent of males in the workforce are unemployed, while 24.9 percent of females in the workforce are currently jobless. Over the last few quarters, the unemployment rate continues to gradually increase among women, while it has slightly decreased among men.

Hisham al-Oql, one of nearly 600 former workers at the Tanta Flax and Oils Company, who has been unemployed for the past seven years, also points to the general governmental disinterest in labor rights.

Oql dismisses CAPMAS’s unemployment figures as inaccurate. "Real unemployment probably amounts to more than double the figure they’ve cited.”

“We are filing further legal appeals for the implementation of the court verdicts," Oql explains, referring to those issued in 2011 for the re-operation of stalled companies and reinstatement of workers. "Yet the government is simply ignoring our demands, and refusing to respect judicial rulings,” he adds.

Fifty-year-old Oql adds that he has to rely on his mother for financial assistance, so that he can support his wife and son.

For the past four years, Oql has been seeking to unify the efforts and demands of thousands of other jobless workers to demand the re-opening of the following stalled companies: Tanta Flax and Oils, Simo Paper, Nile Cotton Ginning, Nasr Steam Boilers and Omar Effendy department stores, among others.

Oql said the government talks of promoting production and creating additional job opportunities, but is not doing so effectively.

Ramadan also pointed to “an increase in the rate of punitive sackings of workers,” including laborers who are fired for organizing independent unions in their workplaces for protesting, striking, or "calling for the accountability of corrupt administrators.”

According to the independent unionist, the fourth quarter of 2015 may bear the grimmest unemployment rate yet, as tourism has been hit hard over the past two weeks in Sharm el-Sheikh and elsewhere, amid allegations of a bomb on board a Russian Metrojet passenger plane that crashed in Sinai, killing all 224 passengers and crew members on October 31.

Ramadan concluded that this employment crisis coincides with the high season of foreign tourism to Egypt.

*Photo courtesy of

Following dawn raids on their homes, another 2 journalists jailed

Mada Masr

Journalists Syndicate decries arrest of 2 reporters in dawn raids

Tuesday November 17, 2015

Two journalists were arrested in a dawn raid of their homes on Saturday, the Journalists Syndicate said in a statement that lambasted security authorities for aggressively targeting media workers and violating their basic rights.

The prosecutor general approved the release of one of the journalists, Sobhy Shoaib, from the Bassioun Police Station in the Gharbiya governorate on Sunday after the syndicate released its statement, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said.

However, Abdel Rahman Mohamed, deputy editor-in-chief of the privately owned Al-Mesryoon news site and a reporter for the National Company for Distribution, is reportedly still in custody at the Qanater al-Khairiya Police Station, pending investigations into charges that he belongs to a banned organization.

Mohamed was arrested from his home in Qalyubiya early on November 14. According to the aforementioned statement, police forces also raided his residence and “terrorized his family.”

Journalists Syndicate President Yehia Qallash issued a separate statement exhorting the prosecutor general and interior minister to immediately order Mohamed’s release, arguing the charges against him were "baseless and fabricated."

Al-Mesryoon chief editor Mahmoud Sultan published an op-ed adamantly dismissing claims that Mohamed belonged to any banned or radicalized group. He confirmed that Mohamed was a specialist in the field of political Islam, but did not identify in any way with that school of thought.

Mohamed’s reporting shed light on rampant corruption in Egyptian businesses, Sultan said, but now he’s in jail while many of these corrupt businessmen have gone free.

2013 report from the Committee to Protect Journalists found that Egypt was the third most dangerous country for reporters — coming in only after Syria and Iraq — and conditions have only continued to worsen, Sultan wrote.

The Journalists Syndicate denounced tactics like dawn raids, punitive detentions and forced disappearances that security forces wield against reporters. The statement urged media professionals to adopt “a serious and unified stance against the expanding practice of arresting journalists and referring them to criminal hearings on the basis of faulty charges and questionable investigations.”

The statement further condemned the arrests of other journalists, including Mada Masr contributor Hossam Baghat, due to their writing.

The Interior Ministry is directly “responsible for the lives and well-being” of the 33 journalists currently detained or imprisoned, who must all be immediately released, the statement said.

The syndicate called for new legislation to safeguard and uphold basic rights for journalists while deregulating the sector and giving reporters more freedom to do their jobs.


Despite his release, journalist may still face military prosecution for his writings

Mada Masr

A statement by Hossam Bahgat on his military detention, interrogation

By: Hossam Bahgat

Tuesday, November 10, 2015 

Mada Masr contributor Hossam Bahgat recently published a statement on his Facebook account in which he documents the events that took place during his three-day detention by military intelligence and interrogation by military prosecution, from Sunday November 7 until his release today at Tuesday November 10 at noon.

A translation of Bahgat's statement by Mada Masr reads as follows:

Firstly, I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who has expressed any form of solidarity during the three days in which I was “hosted” by the Egyptian military.

It is not the appropriate moment for me to narrate all the details of the past three days, so I will only document the events that took place briefly.

On the morning of Sunday November 8, I headed to military intelligence headquarters in response to a written summons that was delivered to my house three days earlier.

I spent approximately three hours at military intelligence before I was escorted through a back door to a car and driven to the military judiciary, accompanied by armed guards. My request to contact my family, lawyer or colleagues, who were waiting for me outside the building, was denied.

At the military judiciary, I was held in the car with armed guards for over five hours, before being made to appear in front of a member of the North Cairo Military Prosecution and interrogated as someone facing charges.

I resisted several attempts to intimidate and entice me into waiving my right to have a lawyer present. Upon my insistence, I was allowed one phone call to inform a friend of my whereabouts and request a lawyer.

As my interrogation began, a large number of colleagues, friends and lawyers, who are the companions of years of struggle, waited for me outside with the knowledge of the colonel who heads the prosecution.

The interrogation, which commenced in the presence of 25 volunteer defense lawyers, was wholly focused on a journalistic investigation that I published in Mada Masr on October 13 with the headline “A coup busted?”

My interrogation was based on a report by military intelligence against me. At the end, the head of the prosecution informed me that I faced charges of deliberately broadcasting false news that harms national interests and involuntarily disseminating information that harms public interests, as per Articles 102 and 188 of the Penal Code.

After the interrogation was completed and the lawyers were dismissed, I was transferred to military intelligence again. I waited in the same car until 11 pm, when another car arrived with three armed men in civilian clothing. They searched me thoroughly, then took me to their car, blindfolded me and asked me to lower my head on the seat in front of me.

I was taken to an unknown location and questioned by a doctor upon arrival, who asked if I had any illnesses or was taking any medication. I was then asked to take off my clothes, and the doctor performed a non-invasive physical inspection.

Afterward, I was allowed to get dressed and was escorted into a building. My blindfold was taken off and all my possessions were confiscated, including my glasses, and I was moved to a small, dark cell with nothing but two blankets on the floor.

After about 15 minutes, the guard blindfolded me again and I spoke to officials who did not reveal their identities. They told me that the matter would end in the morning and ordered that I be transferred to the “villa.”

I was then escorted to a room with a bed and a small bathroom and I was allowed to bring in some of the food that lawyers had provided while I was at military prosecution.

I was kept in this room, which was secured by both a wooden and metal door, from Sunday November 8 at midnight until Tuesday November 9 at noon. During this time, I was not interrogated.

All of the demands I made to the guards were ignored. I requested many times that they inform officials of my wishes to know the military prosecution’s decision regarding my detention and to understand my legal position — to know whether I was being detained under investigation, referred to trial or abducted. I was not even allowed to meet any of the officers.

Today, on Tuesday, at noon, I was blindfolded and escorted by an armed guard in a car to military intelligence again. I met with two officers, a general and a lieutenant colonel, for an hour, and was informed for the first time that the prosecution had ordered my detention for four days pending investigations, but that military intelligence had decided to release me today.

At the end of the meeting, I wrote a statement that was dictated to me stating: “I will abide by legal and security procedures when publishing material pertaining to the Armed Forces” and asserting that I did not experience any physical or emotional abuse during my detention at military intelligence. My possessions were returned to me and I was allowed to leave.

I still do not know the fate of the investigations into the two charges mentioned above. Defense lawyers will try to clarify the matter in the coming days.

Throughout the course of my interrogation by military prosecution, they reiterated that I do not enjoy the legal and syndicate protection that journalists have, because I am not a member of the Journalists Syndicate.

While I thank the syndicate for sending a lawyer to attend my interrogation, I urge, again, the board of the Journalists Syndicate and its general assembly to take immediate measures to secure syndicate protection to all those who practice journalism with no discrimination.

In the end, I was lucky to receive an outpouring of solidarity and sympathy, which guaranteed a degree of relatively better treatment during my detention and the short duration of my stay, despite the aforementioned procedural violations of my rights as a detainee. I can only thank all the lawyers, colleagues, friends, comrades and Egyptian and international organizations that expressed their support and offered me their assistance.

I wish for freedom for the thousands of people unfairly detained in Egyptian prisons. I reassert my rejection of the criminalization of journalistic work, the use of the Penal Code to imprison journalists, and the trial of civilians in military courts.



Read Also:

Egypt: Arrest of prominent activist Hossam Bahgat another blow for freedom of expression (Amnesty International)

CPJ calls on Egypt to release investigative journalist Hossam Bahgat (Committee to Protect Journalists)

Egypt: Free Journalist Facing Military Prosecution (Human Rights Watch)

Ban Ki Moon concerned about detention of human rights defender in Egypt (United Nations, Secretary General)

Putin suspends Russian flights to Egypt after Sinai plane crash

The Guardian
Russian plane crash: flight recorder captured 'sound of explosion'

Vladimir Putin orders halt to all flights to Egyptian airports as evidence mounts that flight 9268 was brought down rather than suffering mechanical failure

Saturday 7 November, 2015

The sound of an apparent explosion can be heard on the flight recorder of the Russian-operated plane that came down over the Sinai peninsula, killing all 224 people on board, adding to the evidence that a bomb was smuggled aboard, French media sources said on Friday.

Giving further credence to the idea that the plane crash was a terrorist act rather than because of structural failure, Russia, which for a week has been resistant to speculation about a bomb, suspended flights to all Egyptian airports.

An Egyptian-led international team of aviation experts, including some from France, successfully recovered the black box, the flight recorder, from the crash site.

Several French media outlets, including the television station France 2, reported that the investigators had listened to it and concluded that a bomb had detonated, which would seem to rule out structural failure or pilot error.

The pilots can be heard chatting normally, including contact with airport controllers, up until the apparent explosion.

One source close to the investigation told AFP that the black box data “strongly favours” this theory. While another source reportedly said: “Everything was normal during the flight, absolutely normal, and suddenly there was nothing,” adding that the plane had suffered “a violent, sudden,” end.

A news conference is due to be held on Saturday afternoon by the Egyptian aviation minister, Hossam Kamal, and the head of the Egypt-led investigation into the disaster, although the government warned it could be delayed.
While Russia had earlier suggested that the UK was acting prematurely in halting flights to the Red Sea resort over terrorism fears, Vladimir Putin ordered even wider restrictions on Friday, including halting all flights from Cairo. The head of his federal security services said it would be expedient to suspend flights until they had discovered why the Airbus A321 had crashed last Saturday.

Meanwhile, the US announced new security measures – including tighter screening – for flights from some airports in the Middle East. Jeh Johnson, the homeland security secretary, said that the move was motivated by “an abundance of caution.”

Russia initially dismissed claims by Islamic State of responsibility for downing the Metrojet flight, which came weeks after threats of retaliation for Russian planes bombing Syria, and Moscow reacted angrily after David Cameron said it was “more likely than not” a bomb.

Suspicions had intensified throughout the week that the Metrojet airliner was blown up. In addition to the French media reports about the black box, according to reports from the US, a “flash” from the plane was picked up by US satellites.

American officials have also told Reuters that intercepted intelligence “chatter” involving militant groups in Sinai supported the bomb theory. An Isis-affiliated group has claimed three times that it was responsible for bringing down the plane.

Russia will now begin to bring home its tourists, up to 79,000 of whom are currently on holiday in Egypt, according to Russian tourist authorities.

However, there were chaotic scenes at Sharm el-Sheikh airport on Friday as the schedule of “rescue flights” apparently agreed by airlines disintegrated. Thousands of travellers who had gone to the airport expecting to leave were further delayed. Eight easyJet flights were cancelled in the morning, while empty Monarch, Thomas Cook and Thomson airliners that had flown from Britain to bring back holidaymakers were diverted before reaching Egypt.

EasyJet claimed that Egyptian authorities were blocking their extra flights, as passengers were sent back to their hotels pending “top-level government talks” to resolve the situation. In extraordinary scenes at the airport, Britain’s ambassador to Cairo, John Casson, was heckled by passengers, who shouted: “What is the problem and when can we go home?”

Tour operators promised that stranded customers would remain in their accommodation free of charge or be reimbursed.

Egypt’s civil aviation ministry denied that it was blocking any flights, but said only eight of the 29 planned flights from Sharm el-Sheikh to the UK on Friday were operating because the airport did not have the capacity to store hold luggage. Only hand luggage is being allowed on flights back to Britain amid fears that a bomb was placed in the hold of the Metrojet plane.

Kamal, Egypt’s aviation minister, said: “The British airline [easyJet] wants to schedule 18 flights at the same time and wants to transport British passengers from Sharm el-Sheikh without their luggage, which we would have to transport later. This constitutes a huge burden on the airport because its capacity does not allow for that.”

Britain had expected that all passengers who were due to fly home this week before flights were cancelled over security fears – about 3,500 people – would have returned by Friday night. Patrick McLoughlin, the transport secretary, had told the BBC: “We feel that should be possible.” But as the day unfolded, a Downing Street spokesman said the situation was “very fluid … complicated and difficult.”

He said a broken-down aircraft at the airport had contributed to delays on the ground.

The first 180 tourists to return to the UK arrived at Gatwick airport on an easyJet flight at 4.25pm, describing chaotic scenes before departure. They said the pilot had assured them that intelligence officials from MI5 and the Egyptian army had guarded their plane before takeoff to ensure its safety.
Some were in tears outside the arrivals area of Gatwick. Emma Turner, from Kent, said her husband had been hit by other tourists, whom she believed to be Russian, amid scuffles to get through the departure area in Egypt. “It was absolutely horrendous. We got hit twice in arrivals at Sharm going through security. They had one door open and we had children with us.”

Nicky Bull, from Bath, described the airport as “dreadful”, saying: “I appreciate all the extra security, but they just could not cope with it … everybody was getting crushed. Everybody was shouting and screaming.”

Another passenger, Nathan Hazelwood, said security at Sharm was shocking. “I think it’s a joke. We need a bit of a presence out there. I don’t think we should be flying out there at all. Security needs to be tightened.”

A further 179 passengers were on board a second easyJet plane that landed at 5.30pm at Luton. A number of the cancelled UK –bound flights were expected to operate on Saturday, while the hold luggage of returning British passengers would be transported on separate flights over the next 10 days.

While Egypt said the decision to cancel the majority of UK-bound flights on Friday was purely logistical, an easyJet spokesman suggested it was a political decision after Britain took a lead in restricting travel. Egypt has rejected claims that Isis carried out the attack and maintains there is nothing wrong with security at Sharm el-Sheikh airport.

The country stands to lose a large, critical source of income in the region if the tourist industry is in effect shut down because of terrorism fears.

Isis, which has not generally pursued major attacks outside its base in Syria, has claimed responsibility for bringing down the plane. The suspension of flights to and from Egypt is the first sign that Moscow is attaching credibility to the theory, but the Kremlin continued to insist there is no presumption of a bomb.

A spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said: “The decision of the president to suspend flights to Egypt does not mean that a terrorist attack is the main suspected cause of the catastrophe with [the airline] Kogalymavia.” He said Putin was not suspending flights to Egypt until the cause of the crash was identified, but only “until it is possible to establish the necessary safety level for air travel.”

Russian state television channels have largely shied away from discussing the possibility that a terrorist bomb or missile could have caused the crash, and politicians described the UK’s decision to cancel Egypt flights as “psychological pressure” on Russia over its airstrikes against Syrian rebels.

On Friday, a Downing Street spokesman said Britain’s curbs on flights to the Red Sea resort were not dependent on the possible causes of the Metrojet disaster. “The evidence we received suggested there was a credible threat with regard to Sharm el-Sheikh airport, which is why we have taken the actions we have.”

In 2014, about 1.9 million Russians visited Egypt, making it the second most popular holiday destination for Russians after Turkey. Although the number of Russians holidaying abroad has been falling since the Ruble lost half its value in 2014, Egypt has remained popular, as operators have lowered prices for package tours there.

Vladimir Kaganer, the general director of the tourist agency Tez Tour, which said it had 10,000 clients in Egypt, claimed that an evacuation order would be needed to bring Russian holidaymakers home. “If people are at a resort and they come to them to say a plane was sent to take you back, they would say: ‘No, we want to be on holiday for two more weeks, we’re not going anywhere.’”

A third Russian government plane carrying victims’ remains and their personal belongings from Egypt returned to St Petersburg on Friday.


Egyptian protesters block Downing St. as Dictator Sisi visits London

Agence France-Presse 

Thursday November 5, 2015

A police officer stands opposite protesters opposed to Egyptian President Sisi, holding flags bearing the four-finger symbol associated with those killed in the crackdown on a protest camp in Cairo in 2013. PHOTO: AFP
(AFP) LONDON - Campaigners opposed to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Thursday blocked the entrance to Downing Street, the London residence of British Prime Minister David Cameron, ahead of a meeting between the two leaders.

Around 200 demonstrators protested against Sisi’s human rights record, but they were outnumbered by those proclaiming support for the Egyptian leader.

Police removed five anti-Sisi protesters dressed in white boiler suits, who lay on the pavement playing dead while blocking the gates to Downing Street.

One had “Freedom” written on his back and another “Human Rights”, while another wore a noose around his neck.

The protesters wore T-shirts with the four-fingered “Rabia” logo, which is associated with those killed in the crackdown on the Rabaa al-Adawiya protest camp in Cairo in 2013.

“He took the presidency by the sword, by killing,” said a man who gave his name as Abu Hamza.

“The world must know that he’s a killer and does not deserve the presidency.”

“Why are protesters being arrested when it’s Sisi who should be arrested?” said Anne Alexander of the Egypt Solidarity Initiative

“He shouldn’t be having lunch with the prime minister. He should be in jail.”

They were opposed by a group of around 300 Sisi supporters, who held placards reading: “We love you Sisi” and “Welcome Sisi”.

“Egypt was lost,” said 50-year-old restaurant owner Magdi Khalil.

“We were going on the path of Syria and Libya. Sisi and the army rescued Egypt.”

“Those (anti-Sisi protesters) are liars and traitors,” added an Egyptian policeman who declined to be named.

“They are neither Muslim nor brotherhood. They plant bombs, they attack police. I’m here getting treatment after being shot in the leg.”

Sisi and Cameron were set to talk Thursday on security and the Sinai plane crash, as concerns mount it could have been caused by a bomb.

Britain on Wednesday suspended flights to and from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh due to new information that suggested a “significant possibility” the crash was caused by a bomb.

Sisi’s visit is his first to Britain since he led the Egyptian army’s overthrow of his predecessor Mohamed Morsi and critics have accused Cameron of putting trade interests above human rights.

They accuse Sisi of crushing all opposition in Egypt and jailing thousands of people, from Muslim Brotherhood supporters to secularists and leftists.

*Photo courtesy of AFP 


Read also:

UK: Press Egypt on Rights Crisis (Human Rights Watch)