Egypt Daily Update: Pope Francis Visits Cairo, Meets with al-Sisi

April 28, 2017

Pope Francis Visits Cairo

German Parliament Approves Security Agreement with Egypt

Cartoon of the Day: Pricing Scheme

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Pope Francis Visits Cairo

Pope Francis began his historic two-day visit to Cairo today, meeting a variety of religious and political leaders, including Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Coptic Pope Tawadros II, and Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb. He will also participate in an international peace conference organized by al-Azhar University. A European diplomatic source told Ahram Online that the Pope planned to raise the case of Giulio Regeni—an Italian graduate student who was murdered in Egypt in February 2016—with President al-Sisi at Regeni’s family’s request. In a speech at al-Azhar today, the Pope is expected to address ending the flow of arms and money to extremists as a way to combat terrorism.According to Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the purpose of the Pope’s visit to Egypt is to bring a message of peace in the wake of numerous attacks on Coptic Christians—including the two church bombings in Tanta and Alexandria on Palm Sunday earlier this month—and encourage respect for religious minorities. The Cardinal stated to the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, “The fundamental issue is education, and educating those of different religious beliefs and especially the young, to have great respect for those of other faiths.” On Twitter yesterday, the Pope referred to himself as a “pilgrim of peace to Egypt.” Popes Francis and Tawadros II will lead a prayer service at St. Peter’s church in Cairo on Friday evening—the cathedral Islamic State militants bombed in December 2016.

Breaking with tradition, Pope Francis will not be driving in the armored car typically used by his predecessors on foreign trips, despite the recent spate of terrorist attacks in Egypt. The Associated Press reported that “Francis departed Cairo airport [Friday afternoon] with the window of his blue fiat rolled down.” However, security was increased in Cairo for the Pope’s visit; armored cars were stationed in front of the presidential palace and policemen patrolled the Vatican embassy and the Zamalek neighborhood in Cairo where the Pope is staying tonight. The last Pope to visit Egypt was Pope John Paul II in 2000.

German Parliament Approves Security Agreement with Egypt

The German Parliament approved a measure late Thursday night to increase security cooperation with Egypt’s Interior Ministry in order to fight terrorism. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the agreement “obliges the authorities of both countries to cooperate in investigations, share information about suspects, and carry out joint operations.” Egyptian Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar and German Federal Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maizière signed the agreement in July 2016, but it required German parliamentary approval to take effect.

HRW issued a statement earlier this week urging the German Parliament to reject the measure, arguing that it “could make German officials complicit in serious human rights violations.” Germany Director at HRW Wenzel Michalski stated, “If the German government wants to help protect German and Egyptian citizens from terrorism while respecting human rights, this is a terrible way of going about it.”

Egypt’s Parliamentary Human Rights Committee discussed the HRW statement on Wednesday. Committee Chairman Alaa Abed referred to HRW as a biased “radical Western organization” and claimed that its statement “gives cover to [the ISIS-affiliated group in the Sinai] to continue mounting its bloody crimes and violent terrorist attacks against the Egyptian people” by discouraging German-Egyptian security cooperation.

In other news, Egyptian human rights lawyer Mohamed Zaree, who works with the Cairo Institute on Human Rights Studies and founded the Arab Organization for Criminal Reform, was named a finalist for the 2017 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. Zaree was placed on a travel ban in 2016 and had his assets frozen in January 2017 as part of the Egyptian government’s crackdown on civil society organizations that receive foreign funding.

Cartoon of the Day: Pricing Scheme

Model: “Pricing scheme”
Manager: “Don’t be afraid, it’s not an increase or a rise or a change…”Mohamed Abdel Latif
Youm7 – 04/27/2017

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