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Newsreel
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 23 - 05 - 2019


Electricity prices increase
WITH Egypt being hit by a series of early summer heat waves, many people are preparing themselves for higher electricity bills, especially after this week's increases in tariffs.
Electricity prices will increase by an average of 15 per cent starting in July, said Minister of Electricity Mohamed Shaker in a press conference on Tuesday. In 2014-2015 the government announced a strategy aimed at phasing out electricity subsidies starting in 2016 as a means to contain the budget deficit. It lowered subsidies by an average of 30 per cent in July 2016, followed by 40 per cent in July 2017 and 26 per cent in July 2018.
It planned that electricity subsidies would be fully lifted in 2019-2020, but the deadline was extended in order not to burden households. The subsidies will be fully phased out by June 2022, according to Shaker.
The increase for very high and higher consumption tiers, including heavy industries and the Cairo underground, will range between nine and 10 per cent. Meanwhile, medium consumption tiers, including homes and many enterprises, will rise by around 19 per cent, Shaker said.
The reforms include a commitment to removing subsidies on most fuel products by next month. The new prices will be translated into a decrease in energy subsidies from LE49 billion to LE22 billion in order to alleviate the financial burden on the ministry and help it repay its debts to the Ministry of Petroleum.
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Presidential pardons
ON 16 MAY President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi issued a presidential decree pardoning 560 prisoners, reports Reem Leila. The majority of the prisoners had been detained for supporting the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
Journalist Abdel-Halim Qandil, sentenced in 2017 to three years in jail for insulting the judiciary, was among the pardoned prisoners.
Pardons are decided by a presidential committee and take into account the behaviour of prisoners while serving their sentences.
Among the young women pardoned were three girls accused of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood and four convicted by the Damietta Criminal Court in September for illegally demonstrating. The pardon list also included a number of people jailed for staging a sit-in in front of the Cabinet headquarters in Cairo's Qasr Al-Aini Street in December 2011.
Lawyer Hassan Abul-Enein says presidential pardons usually target young people and amnesties have been issued regularly since the first youth conference was held in 2016 under the patronage of President Al-Sisi.
Human rights lawyer Negad Al-Boraai said the pardons were a positive step and expressed the hope they would continue.
Since President Al-Sisi came to power in June 2014 close to 9,000 prisoners have been pardoned.
Meanwhile, on Monday evening the prosecutor-general's office decided to release Maasoum Marzouk, Yehia Al-Qazzaz, Raaid Salama and four others pending investigations. They are accused of cooperating with a terrorist group.
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Justice served
TWO men accused of killing 13-year-old Youssef Al-Arabi turned themselves in last week. Following their detention Al-Arabi's mother, 45-year-old Marwa Qenawi, ended a six-week long hunger strike.
The case dates to 2017 when Youssef was struck in the head by a stray bullet during celebratory machine gunfire during an engagement party at Al-Hosari Square, 6 October City. He died 12 days later.
Of the four men accused of responsibility for the gunfire two were immediately detained. The two others, Khaled Abdel-Tawab and Taher Mohamed Abu Taleb, a police officer, were not arrested, leading Qenawi to start a hunger strike on 31 March in protest that they remained free, and to raise awareness of gunfire during weddings especially other celebrations.
Qenawi told the media that she had never received an official explanation why the two men remained free despite being sentenced to seven years in absentia for possession of firearms and involuntary manslaughter.


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