BRIEF 3 – ENAG March 2020

Enag

, OUR MONTHLY BRIEFS

The ENAG view on
COVID-19 and Sisi’s failure
ENAG condemns the reckless attitude of the junta which has for too long refused to take the necessary
measures to prevent the virus from spreading and has maintained a blackout on the real number of cases. In two
press statements released on March 3rd and 11th, ENAG urged the government to close schools and universities as
well as to temporarily release prisoners.
Transparency is the least that Egyptians, foreign tourists and Egypt’s partners should expect from Sisi’s regime
during this global crisis. Instead, the authorities have attempted to deceive the world and its own people, by
providing unrealistic data; blaming another country for a specific case; and putting foreign nationals in danger with
botched testing.
Outrage in Sinai: Dead civilian body mutilated and burned by the army
Following the release of a graphic video showing a member of the Egyptian Military Battalion “103 Thunderbolt”
mutilating then burning the dead body of a Sinai civilian, ENAG issued a statement on March 23rd to express
its outrage and its disgust of such acts and the incomprehensible sense of pride the soldier seems to feel. ENAG
urges Sisi to not leave this war crime unpunished.
The $25 billion Russian loan that Egypt cannot afford
Sisi’s regime seems determined to go ahead with a $25 billion loan from Russia to build a nuclear power plant
in Dabaa, Marsa Matrouh governorate.
On February 28th, ENAG issued a statement ringing the alarm on this loan. Indeed, this enormous $25 billion loan
is worth 23% of current foreign debt (!) and it is estimated that Egypt presently produces 25% more electricity
than it currently needs. Other power plant projects have been put on hold to avoid worsening the debt burden.
Why not this one?
The interest payments of the national debt consume 55% of government revenues. This leaves very little to spend
on the population’s needs: education, health care and infrastructure, especially in a country where 60% of the people
are either poor or vulnerable.
Anti-terrorism law
The ENAG is strongly opposed to the new amendments that were recently made to Egypt’s already-draconian
anti-terrorism law. There are several worrying new additions to the law but most concerning is the removal of
certain provisions when it comes to designating a person as a terrorist.
Intention alone is now enough to warrant a terrorist designation, leaving a gap to interpret and abuse the law as
suits the government best.
In our statement released on March 4th, we point out that this law is now not only a threat to all Egyptians but also
to foreign companies and financial institutions who could have assets frozen for affiliation with so-called
“terrorists”.
In brief
Osama Morsi in danger
The physical safety and health of Mohamed Morsi’s son Osama Morsi, who has been imprisoned in Egypt since
December 2016 on spurious charges, has been called into question by the family’s lawyer, Toby Cadman from
Guernica 37 International Justice chambers.
In a letter sent to French President Emanuel Macron by Dr. Ayman Nour, spokesman of ENAG, Dr. Amr Darrag,
former Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Ms. Madga Rafaa, a political philosophy researcher in
Paris and Mr. Yehia Hamed, former Minister of Investment, requesting that he intervene on Osama Morsi’s behalf,
it is highlighted that Osama has begun a hunger strike to protest the newly downgraded conditions of his
detention.
In September 2019, Mohamed Morsi’s son Abdullah who was not in prison died of an alleged heart attack, he was
25 at the time.
Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur for extra-judicial killings, described the death of Mohamed Morsi as an
“arbitrary killing”.
COVID-19: Egypt at war with transparency
Reporting on COVID-19 figures can now have your press accreditation revoked, as happened to The Guardian
reporter Ruth Michaelson. The report in question is based on data used by researchers at the University of Toronto.
It says that Egypt’s number of cases is likely to amount to around 19,000 people, a figure which is significantly higher
than that reported by the government.
The State Information Service (SIS) has also sent a warning to New York Times reporter Declan Walsh for his
reporting on COVID-19 in the country.
COVID-19: Four women arrested while protesting for the temporary release of prisoners
Four women – author Ahdaf Souief, her sister Laila Saoueif, activist Mona Seif (all related to Alaa Abdelfattah)
and political scientist Rabab El-Mahdi – were arrested for holding a small demonstration in central Cairo on March
18th. They were asking the state to take “serious steps regarding corona in prisons. As we know… Egypt’s prisons
are clusters for disease”.
Ahdaf Soueif, Mona Seif, and Rabab al-Mahdi have now been released however Laila Souief was only released later
after she had started a hunger and water strike.
COVID-19: 31 people including the former President of Tunisia sign a letter to the UN to
release prisoners in Egypt
31 people from different countries, including former President of Tunisia and 2011 Nobel Prize laureate have
signed an urgent letter to the UN Secretary General asking for action to temporarily release prisoners in
Egypt during the COVID-19 outbreak. This letter was also sent to the African Union Chair and Chairperson, to the
WHO Director General and Deputy Director General, to the EU High Representative Josep Borrell-Fontelles, to the
French President Macron, to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, to the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte
and to the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Only one case has officially been announced amongst the Egyptian prison population however in a letter leaked
from Al-Aqrab prison, it is revealed that there are significantly more cases. The prisoners have received no
assistance and no measure to stop the spreading have been taken.
Iran, which has similar prison conditions to Egypt, just released 85,000 prisoners to control the spread of COVID-19,
following a directive from the UN.
28 year-old Bologna University student and human rights activist Patrick Zaky moved to
Al-Aqrab prison – latest hearing cancelled
The hearing session for Patrick Zaky, which was due to be held on March 23rd was cancelled as it was on March
16th. The reason given was that prisoners could not be transported. A visit ban has also been extended. The family
and relatives of Patrick have no way to know how he is.
Mubarak given hero’s burial
The funeral of Hosni Mubarak was held on February 26th, one month after the anniversary of the 2011 revolution
which removed him from power. Many in Egypt, including the ENAG, saw this as an attempt by Sisi to show that the
2011 Revolution was now also dead.
Mubarak was given a full military honours at his funeral. His lawyer publicly stated that “This is evidence that
president Sisi is loyal and wise”. His burial is especially striking when compared to that of President Mohamed
Morsi who was swiftly buried and denied public mourning.
The ENAG stresses that the Revolution is not dead, and the spirit of 2011 remains strong amongst many Egyptians.
Mass execution in the 2017 Church attacks case
The Eight civilians were concurrently executed following a sham trial in relation to the 2017 attacks on Coptic
churches. The “confessions” which were used to sentence them were obtained under torture and should not have
been valid in a court of law. Several of the defendants were also forcefully disappeared for a period.
There are nine other defendants who are awaiting execution, which could happen any day.
Watch for
Several campaigns have been launched to get the prisoners released – how will it result?
Campaigns to release the prisoners in Egypt have multiplied. On top of the letter sent to the UN or the protest
organized by Alaa Abdelfattah’s family mentioned above, organisations such as We Record, Batel or Amnesty
International and Human Rights Watch have all campaigned to save the lives of the prisoners. This is a particularly
anxious time for the families as hearings and visitations have been banned. This means that they cannot
communicate at all with their relatives.
At the time of publishing this Brief, only 15 prisoners have been released so far. As a reminder, there are more than
60,000 political prisoners in Egypt.
Read
EIS Report on Coronavirus and economic consequences
A brief yet comprehensive piece by Ahmed Zikrallah was released by the Egyptian Institute for Studies on the
potential dramatic economic consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak. It warns of the high dependency of
Egypt on external factors on which it has no influence. Indeed, Egypt is mostly a rentier economy and depends on
now diving revenues from the Suez Canal, tourism, oil and gas exports or the remittances of the Egyptian expatriates
(which constitutes 8.8% of the GDP). The report also addresses the risks of seeing Gulf countries’ financial
support drastically reduce along with foreign investments and loans. It also covers the Egyptian Stock
Exchange’s dive and the gloomy future of the Egyptian Pound.
A difficult Must-Read: torture of children in Egyptian prison
The HRW and Belady have co-signed a chilling report called “No one cared he was a child” which shares the
testimonies of children who have endured torture, enforced disappearance and many other forms of abuse
in the hands of the Egyptian regime. It tells the stories of children as young as 12 when they were tortured
(electroshocks, beatings, suspended in the air…), held in solitary or in overcrowded cells with adults.
Oppression and humiliation testimonies from Egyptian prisons
Another paper published this month by the Egyptian Institute for Studies is the very vivid report by Emad Sami on
the humiliating process in Egyptian prisons. The major strength of this report is the testimonies of both male
and female former prisoners.
Former prisoner Mohamed Soltan joined the plea to release prisoners
In a moving Op-Ed in the Washington Post, Mohamed Soltan whose father has been detained since 2013 as a
political prisoner recalls the inhumane conditions in which himself was detained, the unimaginable
promiscuity in which prisoners live and the medical negligence they suffer. He calls Sisi to release the most
vulnerable prisoners.
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