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Egypt courts Senegal to counter Turkey influence in West Africa



Egypt is seeking closer ties with Senegal in an attempt to counter Turkey’s expansion in West Africa, reports Al-Monitor.

Egypt is organising a visit to Senegal to discuss deepening agriculture and infrastructure projects in the context of “historical and fraternal ties between the African brothers,” according to a member of Egypt’s African Affairs Committee.

Last year, Egypt was pushing for joint cooperation between the two countries in water and sanitation projects.

The two countries have also discussed the trade of textiles, construction equipment, carpets and furniture and boosting Egyptian investment in tourism and solar energy.

According to Al-Monitor, this strengthening relationship comes after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visited Dakar ahead of a new Turkish embassy set to be built in the Senegalese capital.

READ: Egypt: Musician jailed with Mubarak’s sons describes luxurious jail with sauna, gym

Turkish trade exchange with Senegal is set to be raised to $400 million, from $250 million in 2019, as Turkey moves to cement ties with West Africa through humanitarian aid, politics and economics.

Senegalese President Macky Sall has said that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a friend, and that Turkey has played a vital role in building infrastructure in his country.

Turkey has distributed medical aid, masks and sterilisers to help Senegal stem the spread of coronavirus.

Egypt is a key member of the US-backed, Saudi-UAE camp which opposes Qatar and Turkey partly because they look favourably on the Muslim Brotherhood.

Egypt and Turkey have also locked horns over Libya and natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Egypt has attempted to counter Turkey’s influence across the wider region, including in Lebanon where the government sent several plane loads of medical aid following the Beirut port explosion last summer.

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Biden suspends Trump’s immunity for ex-Egypt PM



The new US administration of Joe Biden has suspended the request of immunity for former Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem El Beblawi in a torture case brought to courts by US citizen Mohamed Soltan, the legal reporter for the Washington Post Spencer Hsu tweeted on Saturday.

In July, the US State Department declared that El Beblawi, who is serving on the executive board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), should be immune from a federal lawsuit brought by a US citizen seeking to hold him liable for torture, the Washington Post reported.

The Post said this came after diplomatic pressure from the Egyptian government aimed at blocking the lawsuit.

Following that decision, several US lawmakers and human rights groups accused Egypt of blackmailing the Trump administration by threatening to weaken their strategic partnership in the Middle East.

Soltan, an Egyptian-American citizen, was imprisoned in Egypt following the violent crackdown on the peaceful anti-military coup protests that took place in Egypt in 2013. Under much pressure from the US, he was released on condition of giving up his Egyptian citizenship.

Since then, Soltan, who launched a hunger strike in protest of his detention and torture, has been vocal about the Egyptian authorities’ abuses against other detainees, including his father and other family members.

Sultan filed a lawsuit against El Beblawi in June 2020, accusing him along with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, his former office manager Abbas Kamel, head of the General Intelligence Service and three former leaders of the Ministry of Interior, of “torturing him in Tora Prison”.

Take a look at our special page on the Egyptian Arab Spring

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EXCLUSIVE NEWS: US-Egypt citizen Moustafa Kassem survived Abu Zabaal death van



Moustafa Kassem was one of eight people to survive being locked in a police van outside Abu Zabaal Prison in 2013 alongside 37 other detainees who suffocated to death inside, one of the survivors in an adjacent van has told MEMO.

Kassem later became the first US citizen to die in an Egyptian prison cell following consistent medical neglect for his diabetes and thyroid disorder throughout his incarceration.

Kassem was first arrested shortly after the Rabaa massacre on 18 August 2013 when a number of demonstrators and passers-by were rounded up and put into several of Egypt’s blue prison vans.

In the van that Kassem was in, there were 45 prisoners in a space big enough for 24.

They were driven to Abu Zabaal Prison on the outskirts of Cairo and left in the van outside for six hours without water, recalls Ali Ahmed, an activist who participated in the 2011 uprising.

It was summer in Egypt and the temperatures regularly topped 40 degrees. The only windows in Egypt’s police vans are small and situated very high up, with mesh over the top of them.

Inside Ali’s van, the prisoner next to him had been shot in his thigh and prison guards were hitting him on the bullet wound with the back of their rifles. “Kill me now,” the prisoner said to Ali. “I can’t stand it anymore.”

The officers ordered them out of the van, doused them in petrol, and threatened to set them all on fire, before ordering them back into the van.

Inside, they could hear the prison guards asking for a chainsaw to open Kassem’s van because after the people inside died, they fell against the doors which opened inwards.

Ali, who now lives in exile in Spain after the authorities hounded him on account of his activism, told MEMO that it was widely reported the prisoners died from asphyxiation after prison guards threw tear gas in the van, but he believes they died long before that and the gas was thrown in to cover up how much they had suffered.

Following the incident Ali and Moustafa Kassem were put on the same wing in Tora Prison that consisted of 18 cells. During break time they were allowed to visit each other’s cells.

READ: 18 days

When he was arrested Kassem was working as a taxi driver in New York and was in Egypt visiting family. He was accused of being a spy and taking part in protests.

Kassem denied all charges against him and said he was changing money at a shopping mall near the square when he was asked to show his ID.

When the police saw his American passport, they threw it on the ground, stamped on it, then started beating him and then detained him.

Kassem was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in a mass trial with over 700 defendants after serving five years without charge.

In September last year, the Committee for Justice estimated that around 958 prisoners have died from medical neglect or torture since the 2013 coup.

During Kassem’s imprisonment top US officials advocated for his release, but they never secured it. The tragedy failed to break the US-Egypt special relationship and US military aid to Egypt continued to be delivered at $1.3 billion a year.

Kassem wrote to Trump during his imprisonment and said, “I’m putting my life in your hands.”

Ali says Kassem was asked multiple times to give up his Egyptian citizenship in exchange for his release, a common demand made of political prisoners, but he refused.

Former political prisoner Mohammed Soltan, who was also imprisoned with Kassem, was forced to give up his Egyptian citizenship before he was released to the US.

“The US should help me as a US citizen,” Kassem told Ali. “I’m innocent and oppressed and they will help me.”

At that time protests still continued outside in the streets so Kassem had hope that he would actually be released. It was an act of resistance, says Ali, that won him respect among his fellow inmates that he hoped would benefit the revolution though he himself advised Kassem to do it.

Ali heard from mutual friends that Kassem later tried to give up his Egyptian citizenship to survive but the request was refused. He died from a heart attack whilst on hunger strike in protest against injustice and maltreatment.

Sisi Era - Cartoon [Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

Sisi Era – Cartoon [Carlos Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

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Pay dispute halts oil exports at Libya’s Hariga port



Libya’s Petroleum Facilities Guard on Sunday ordered a suspension of oil exports at Al-Hariga port in the eastern city of Tobruk over a pay dispute, Anadolu reports.

The private Al-Ahrar TV tweeted that the paramilitary force, which is affiliated with warlord Khalifa Haftar, halted oil exports from the port in protest of being unpaid their monthly salaries.

Oil exports at Al-Hariga port were suspended on Jan. 6 over salary delays.

Libya resumed oil exports in September after a blockade of ports and oilfields by Haftar’s forces ended.

Al-Hariga port has a crude oil export capacity of 120,000 barrels per day.

According to the National Oil Corporation, Libya produces 1.25 million barrels of crude oil per day.

READ: Libya initiates submission of candidacies for executive authority 

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