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Shafiq flees Egypt after election loss

Press TV – June 26, 2012

Egypt’s defeated presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq has left the country just after a probe has been launched into his handling of funds under the former regime.

Shafiq, who lost the June runoff vote to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, flew to the United Arab Emirates in the early hours of Tuesday, AFP quoted an unnamed Cairo airport official as saying.

He was reportedly accompanied by his three daughters and grandchildren.

The departure of Shafiq, who served as the last prime minister under ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak, came hours after the country’s prosecutor general opened a corruption investigation against him.

The inquiry will look into allegations that Shafiq wasted public funds during the eight years he held office as the civil aviation minister under Mubarak.

Meanwhile, rights activists accuse the attorney general of making attempts to hold back some 35 corruption cases against Shafiq by re-transferring them to a military court.

Earlier, Egypt’s former intelligence chief and Vice President Omar Suleiman also left the country for the UAE.

June 26, 2012 Posted by | Corruption | , , , | Comments Off on Shafiq flees Egypt after election loss

US to control Egypt through SCAF

Press TV – June 24, 2012

Press TV has interviewed Hisham Tillawi, journalist and political commentator from Lafayette, Louisiana about the movements of US and Western influence through SCAF that has transformed a popular Egyptian uprising to a contentious civil election while the US keeps control of Egypt’s foreign policy. What follows is an approximate transcript of the interview.

Press TV: Why don’t you tell us what you think about this. This situation where the votes were supposed to be announced on Monday (6 days past), what is going on with all the different announcements by SCAF in terms of consolidating their grip on power with that Declaration stripping powers from the presidency along with the dissolution of parliament – dissolving the parliament, obviously it shows on the surface that they don’t want to give up that power do they?

Tillawi: You reap what you sow and so whomever planted this revolution will reap the fruit. Now, if this revolution was planted by the people and designed by the people then the people will reap the fruit, but if it was designed by the West then the West is going to reap the fruit.

From the beginning in the first interview that I had with you on this Arab Spring thing, I made a statement that what is required now is total chaos in the Middle East in the Arab countries. It does not want to give stability and democracy etc, etc and this is not a friend that we are witnessing, it is a foe.

Now, having said that this is not how democracy works. Let’s assume that actually Ahmed Shafiq had won – let’s just assume that… and if Ahmed Shafiq won I guarantee you that the country will go down into a dark alley of chaos, total chaos, violent chaos.

And if Ahmed Shafiq won and the Military Council is afraid that they are going to have chaos in the country now that Ahmed Shafiq won and actually decides to keep stability and gives it to Mohamed Morsi, then that’s not democracy.

And it’s not democracy to send your people into the Square to demand that Morsi becomes the next president. That’s not how democracy works.

I remember the first time George Bush stole the election in the US, even though he did not win the election and it was clear that he did not win the election, but he was appointed by the Supreme Court in a vote of 5 to 4 and everybody in the country accepted that Supreme Court vote of 5 to 4. We did not see people in the street demanding this and going into breakdown… that is what we’re going to see in Egypt if Morsi is not the next president of Egypt.

And if Ahmed Shafiq is the president then we know that the West won because we know that the West won when they installed the Military Supreme Council. This is a group of people the US have put in power and they give them so much authority that they can even dissolve a parliament.

So now it is in the hands of the Western powers. Everything that is going on in Egypt is in the hands of the Western powers and whoever gives the Western powers a deal will be the next government and the next power in Egypt.

Press TV: When we look at what has happened in the past year or so, since the revolution took place there was plenty of time for SCAF especially after the parliamentary elections to try to get a deal together with the Muslim Brotherhood given that they had the majority.

Of course we heard then when there were some new appointments to the Upper and Lower House of parliament that there was an even divide in terms of representation. Was that all? Did that not yield any results for them to come out with these statements and motions recently such as dissolving the parliament and the Declaration stripping the president of its powers?

Tillawi: We have to look at Egypt not just as in Egypt only, but the forces that are assisting what is going on in Egypt from the outside. Now, there was a deal made between the Supreme Council and the US and this deal was… the US pressured the Supreme Council that actually the form of government that they would like to see in Egypt is not the democracy that is in the US, but they wanted something similar to the Pakistani model.

They wanted a strong Military Council that can sit in anytime and decide actually when to go to war, when to do this and when to do that; and they wanted a president who’s going to handle basically domestic issues and run the government.

That’s the deal that was made with the US so the Military Council… now let’s not forget that the US still pays 3 billion dollars to Egypt; still pays a billion and a half to the military – so it’s a money issue here.

They are putting pressure on the Military Council and the Military Council cannot really change the formula that they have agreed on with the Americans. The formula is for a strong military council to rule, that could be in the background, while you have a president and a government.

That’s the model that the US wants to see in Egypt. Now, is this going to work in Egypt? Well, you have powers from the outside wanting this; you have powers on the inside wanting true democracy.

Now we are going to wait and see who is going to win. Is it going to be the Western powers with the Military Council’s model; or is it going to be the people where the president would have the total power where all power has been transferred and transformed from the Military Council to civilian power.

That, the US would actually have to decide that and I know why the US is going to go with it, they want to keep the Military Council power.

Press TV: Well, who are they going to go with – what do you mean – do you have an answer to that?

Tillawi: If you’re talking about Shafiq or Morsi… well, it doesn’t really matter. As long as the Military Council is in power they have total power. They can change… they can come up with laws; they can change the formula anytime they want, so it doesn’t really matter. But it matters to the Egyptian street about who the president is.

To America, the US, it doesn’t matter because you have the Military Council in power, but to the Egyptian street, if Shafiq is the president then you’re going to see total chaos and violence and maybe civil war in Egypt; if it’s Morsi then that’s OK as long as – and that’s OK with the US, they don’t care – as long as the Military Council is in power because the Military Council is the one that is going to decide the foreign policy for Israel for the West…

So for the US it doesn’t really matter if it is Morsi or Shafiq, but to the Egyptian street it does matter and to the future of Egypt it does matter… if it’s Shafiq, we’re going to have total chaos in Egypt.

Press TV: But there are a couple of problems there don’t you think, if we want to look at the loopholes here: a) you have all these Egyptians who are against the Military Council having a grip on power and of course that’s something you’re saying it doesn’t matter who the faces are, it’s based on America’s influence – but that’s not something the Egyptians are going to go for.

And second of all – who’s to say the Muslim Brotherhood is going to settle for a position that does not give them any type of authority really. In essence they have to bow to the SCAF for in general exercising any type of power in whatever jurisdiction or whatever area that has to do with Egypt and I would think that is to include foreign policy.

Tillawi: Well, let’s not forget that the Muslim Brotherhood did make some deals with the US, too. I mean, we know about those deals even when Mubarak was still in power – there were deals made with the Muslim Brotherhood before the revolution.

So the Muslim Brotherhood and the US, they’re not enemies, they can make deals and in the end, like we have seen in Yemen, like we have seen in many other places, the US will be the major player and they will play all these forces according to their best interests.

Now, … the people have power, but the people also are receiving 3 billion dollars that they cannot do without from the US. So let’s not just concentrate on what the people power and what the people want because if the people got what they want then we would not see all these regimes in the Arab world that we’ve seen for the last forty years.
What the people want and what they can do, it all depends on the Western powers if they are going to be on the street to stir the street up, then you’re going to see the people actually moving up.

Let’s just not say, well, the Egyptian don’t want this. Well, it’s not up to the Egyptians. Like I said, my first statement was – he who starts will reap what he sews so whoever planted this will reap the fruits of this – let’s not forget that. If it was the US or the West actually that stirred this all up in the Middle East then they’re going to reap that.

People don’t like to hear that, people like to hear revolutions and Arab Springs; well unfortunately it’s not what it looks like.

Press TV: You spoke at length the direction that the foreign policy is going to be heading, which behind the scenes obviously the US is the contributor to that 1.3 billion dollars in aid – Tell us then what the US has in mind? From what I understood from you, they don’t particularly care about what is going on inside Egypt as long as they’re in control of the institution that is running Egypt and that would be SCAF.

So are we looking at for example, the peace treaty still being in place; are we still looking at the situation with Gaza for example and Palestinians to still be the same as it was when Mubarak was in power?

Tillawi: To firstly answer the question you asked your correspondent – yes it is true that it’s split in the middle – half the voters voted for Shafiq and half voted for Morsi. That is true so the Egyptian street is split right in the middle on those two presidential candidates.

Press TV: Do you really believe that after seeing what goes on every week in Tahrir Square or is Tahrir Square not the representation?

Tillawi: Well, Tahrir Square is the representation for one party for one side… you have many millions of Egyptians out there and yes from the numbers that we have seen i.e. the numbers that came out of all these polling stations it is almost split in half between both of them.

Press TV: Yes but you have 50 percent of the population that lives below two dollars a day; you have people who have not seen Ahmed Shafiq campaigning in their neighborhoods aside from the Muslim Brotherhood to have gone there. There are those that the Muslim Brotherhood took care of for all these years, not Ahmed Shafiq who is a former remnant. I mean, is that not the way it is?

Tillawi: Sure definitely. You have to keep in mind that not everyone that can vote went and voted. And many of these people you’re talking about living on less than 2 dollars a day, many of them probably did not go to vote unless they are connected with the Muslim Brotherhood or any other organization.

But you have to understand that what is going on in Egypt… you asked me about the US and the peace treaty, the Muslim Brotherhood already said they will keep the peace treaty. They cannot afford not to keep the peace treaty with Israel…

Press TV: Why can’t they afford that? Why is that?

Tillawi: Because they’re getting 4 billion dollars into their economy from the West. Had the Egyptians replaced their foreign aid with money from their country then they can tell the US to go to hell. But as long as there are controls over money, there are controls of many things from the West, you know, he who feeds you gets to control you.

What are the Egyptians going to do? If they tell the US look we’re not going to do anything with you… what’s going to happen?

Press TV: That’s not what I’m saying… Egypt itself has resources, they have gas, they have a textile industry, they have tourism, and they have enough resources to run their country. Why do they have to get that aid in terms of their army? That should be coming out from within their country if they hadn’t controlled the wealth through Mubarak and the upper class. That’s the part that I don’t understand?

Tillawi: I don’t think you can look at it that way because the control from Mubarak through Sadat… these are successional ideas. You’ve got to look at the real thing that is going on.

You have unemployment in Egypt is extremely high, the economy in Egypt is in a disastrous situation. Now, if you can come up with a revolution that was not started by the West; if this revolution was started by the people on the street, by the people who make less than 2 dollars a day, then I can tell you yes they can tell the US to go to hell…

June 24, 2012 Posted by | Deception | , , , , , , | Comments Off on US to control Egypt through SCAF

Muslim Brotherhood rejects dissolution of Egyptian parliament

Press TV – June 16, 2012

The Muslim Brotherhood has rejected the military’s decision to dissolve the Egyptian parliament and has demanded that a referendum be held on the issue.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which secured the biggest bloc of seats in two rounds of parliamentary elections in December 2011 and January 2012, issued a statement on Saturday saying “dangerous days” were ahead and the political gains of the revolution that toppled former dictator Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011 could be wiped out.

The parliament should only be dissolved by a popular referendum, and the order to dissolve the assembly “represents a coup against the whole democratic process,” the statement added.

The Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) — the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood — said in another statement that the decision showed the military council’s desire to “take possession of all powers despite the will of the people.”

Egypt’s ruling military council formally announced the dissolution of the parliament on Saturday following a Supreme Court ruling earlier in the week.

Some critics have compared the move to the beginning of Algeria’s civil war in 1992, when the army cancelled an election an Islamic party was winning.

Egyptians are casting their ballots in a two-day presidential runoff election that began on Saturday and runs until Sunday which pits the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, Mohammed Morsi, against former Prime Minister Ahmad Shafiq.

More than 50 million people are eligible to vote.

Early results of expatriates’ votes show Morsi has won 78 percent.

The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has vowed to hand over power to the winner of the election by July 1.

Many Egyptians fear that Shafiq is the undeclared candidate of the junta and that the military-appointed election committee overseeing the election will rig the vote in favor of Shafiq.

Angry Egyptian protesters have held many demonstrations across the country in which they urged the authorities to ban all remnants of the Mubarak regime from running as candidates in elections.

June 16, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | , , , , | 3 Comments

The Unresolved Question of Egypt’s Economy

14.2 million Egyptians live on less than one US dollar a day

By Ramzy Baroud | Palestine Chronicle | June 13, 2012

A new Egypt demands a new constitution and president. Many pressing questions also need to be addressed, including the religious-secular divide, the value of Sharia in the making of law, citizenship, minority rights, the rule of civil society, foreign policy, and much more.

One issue that requires urgent attention in the current discussion is that of Egypt’s shattered economy. In the first round of elections on May 23, Egypt’s presidential candidates appeared to hold vastly different ideas regarding their vision for the future. With the elimination of independent candidate Hamdeen Sabahy before the final round on June 16-17, the economic program for the two remaining candidates seemed oddly similar and suspiciously familiar.

The oddity stems from the fact that the two contenders – Freedom and Justice Party candidate Mohamed Mursi and former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq – are supposed to represent the two extremes defining Egypt after the 2011 revolution. Mursi is a Muslim Brotherhood figure, long oppressed by the very regime that Shafiq dutifully served.

The “run-off in Egypt’s presidential elections between the two most polarizing candidates has escalated investor concerns of renewed unrest,” claimed Arabia Monitor, a market research company. However, both candidates are united by their advocacy of the same free market economy, the guiding model for the discredited Mubarak regime. The news is hardly shocking in the case of Shafiq, an establishment man who would not be expected to challenge Egypt’s chronic inequality; Mursi’s position is bewildering.

While “rivals portray the Brotherhood as a nebulous organization obsessed with religion,” according to Patrick Werr, “its wide-ranging plan, details of which were revealed during the buildup to last month’s first-round presidential vote, projects a pragmatism that puts rapid economic growth ahead of ideology.” The Brotherhood ‘pragmatism’ is only commended here because it promotes “a strongly free-market economic plan” and a pledge to move quickly to secure a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Some estimates put Egypt’s current debt at close to $190 billion. The Egyptian revolution, which in part sought economic justice and equitable distribution of wealth, is yet to produce a new economic reality. Under Mubarak, the economy operated through a selective interpretation of free market economy marred by extreme corruption in favor of the ruling elite. Over 15 months of haggling between the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), angry masses, a new elected parliament and other forces have now wreaked havoc on an already struggling economy. The Egyptian pound is facing the prospect of ‘disorderly devaluation.’ The IMF’s original loan offer of $3.2 billion, rejected by Egypt at the time, would not be enough to rectify the damage. Per Egyptian government and IMF estimates, the country requires $10-12 billion to secure the pound.

Currency devaluation is only a small aspect of Egypt’s current economic woes. The Economist (May 19-25) reported that Egypt’s foreign exchange reserve is now down to third of its value of 15 months ago and the budget deficit has surged to 10 percent of GDP. “The budget shortfall could be resolved by a stroke of scrapping energy subsidies, but in a country where 40% of people live in poverty; this is a sizzling political potato.”

It is actually much more than a ‘sizzling political potato’. The handling of the economy will ultimately make or break the relationship between Egypt’s new rulers and its people – most of whom are not only politically disfranchised, but economically marginalized as well.

Although most Egyptians now frown at Mubarak’s legacy, the country’s economic indicators were for years perceived favorably by Western financial institutions. After all Egypt recorded steady growth. Its ‘economic reforms’ post 1991 were largely celebrated for further liberalizing trade and investment, cutting subsidies (thus forcing the poor to continue teetering at the edge of poverty and utter desolation) and dismantling the public sector. The IMF and other Western lending institutions do not settle for anything but more austerity measures – regardless of whether Egypt’s new president is a bearded Muslim or an avowed liberal. The only ideology that matters for the IMF is the free market economy.

So what must be done for the almost 14.2 million people who live on less than one US dollar a day? 1.5 million Egyptian currently live in a large graveyard at the outskirts of Cairo. Austerity and further cuts could only lead to the kind of misery that instigated last year’s revolution.

Egypt’s remaining candidates promise to revive the economy while keeping social justice on the agenda. While Shafiq has promised an abundance of perks to various sectors of society, the Brotherhood has been promoting a detailed program called Al-Nahda, or The Renaissance. Enlisting the help of internationally renowned economists such as Peru’s Hernando de Soto Polar, Al-Nahda is reportedly a study of many economic models around the world, including Turkey, Malaysia and South Africa.

The Brotherhood’s initial presidential candidate, Khairat al-Shater was the “driving force behind the project,” according to the Daily Beast (June 7). In an interview last April, he laid down the basic premise of his plan: “The Egyptian economy must rely to a very, very large degree on the private sector. The priority is for Egyptian investors, then Arab then foreign.”

It is expected that Egypt’s intense public discussions in the current phase will be fixed on foundational issues such as the formation of a constitutional assembly and a redefinition of the rule of SCAF. But Egypt’s economy is deeply flawed. An IMF-style free market economy is of no use to millions of Egyptians when they lack proper education and the most basic rights and opportunities. For an Egyptian day laborer to have a better life in a country with a huge and growing income gap between rich and poor, something fundamental needs to take place.

Referencing ‘social justice’ while negotiating IMF loans suggests a precarious start for any truly fundamental economic reforms. While Hamdeen Sabahy is no longer in the race to challenge the free market wisdom of his contenders, the debate must not end here.

June 14, 2012 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | 1 Comment

Sacrificing Mubarak to Save His Regime

The Charade is Over

By ESAM AL-AMIN | CounterPunch | June 4, 2012

When deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and his sons were indicted in April 2011, legal observers cynically noted that the charges were not only politically motivated in order to quiet the massive demonstrations demanding their trial, but also that they were so weak that the trial might have been designed to end in acquittals.

Initially, eleven people were indicted on two sets of charges. The first batch included Mubarak, his two sons, and his old friend and former intelligence officer turned businessman, Hussein Salem. Salem came to prominence after the peace treaty with Israel was signed in 1979, when he became the point man in Egypt for the American aid that poured in as a result of the Camp David accords.

At the time, Hussein was acting as a private contractor, receiving tens of millions of dollars in commissions related to the American military and economic aid. By the mid 1980s, the Pentagon was so concerned with his financial corruption and over-billing that it threatened to indict him unless he was removed from the process. He was subsequently barred from entering the U.S.

Hussein then focused on domestic business ventures, constructing massive tourist resorts on the Red Sea, especially at Sharm Al-Sheikh, attracting European and American tourists. In exchange for getting prime land from the state for his projects on the cheap, he gave Mubarak and his sons five villas at practically no cost. This transaction that took place in the 1990s was the basis of the first set of charges against the Mubarak family for corruption and exchanging influence for financial gain. It should also be mentioned that it was Hussein that owned the private company that bought Egyptian natural gas and sold it to Israel at significantly below market prices, pocketing tens of millions of dollars as a result. Several former Mubarak aids believe that his sons were also silent partners on this incredible deal. For many years the Mubarak regime protected this inequitable transaction before it was scrapped this year under public pressure.

Out of the billions of dollars illegally made by the Mubaraks over the years, the state prosecutor (who himself was also appointed by Mubarak) chose this rotten but insignificant deal from the 90s to indict the former ruling family, knowing fully well that in Egypt the statute of limitation is three years for misdemeanors and ten years for felonies.

The second set of charges were against Mubarak’s security people led by former interior minister Gen. Habib Al-Adly and six of his most brutal senior assistants, including the heads of State Security, Central Security, as well as Cairo and Giza Security apparatuses. It was these security agencies, with over three hundred thousand officers, that cracked down on the protesters killing more than one thousand in the early days of the revolution in January 2011.

Although the two sets of charges on their face were unrelated, they were deliberately joined together in order to give the appearance that Mubarak and his sons were tried because of the security crackdown. But the revolutionary youth took to the streets in April and May of last year, forcing the state prosecutor to include Mubarak on the second set of charges of ordering and conspiring to kill the protesters.

Dating back to the nineteenth century, Egypt’s judiciary is considered one of the oldest modern judiciary systems in the world, earning a fine reputation and an independent tradition. However, as in every authoritarian regime, senior judges were appointed for decades by a dictatorial president so that they could rule in favor of his regime at crucial times. During the past year the world has witnessed how Mubarak-appointed senior judges corrupted the judicial process for political purposes at crucial moments.

One example was manifested this year during the standoff between Egypt’s state prosecutors and the United States after the indictment of 19 American pro-democracy workers. They were charged with operating several unregistered organizations that interfered in the Egyptian political process. In the midst of the pre-trial hearings and under tremendous pressure from the U.S. government, the head of Cairo’s Appeals Court called the chief prosecutor and pressured him to grant the Americans bail. Within two hours of the Americans posting bail, they were smuggled outside Egypt on an American military plane, escaping their day in court. Interestingly, the Republican-led House of Representatives has subsequently deducted the $5 million bail from this fiscal year’s aid to Egypt.

Another example of compromised judges is the head of the Presidential Elections Commission (PEC). Constitutionally, the PEC in Egypt is made up of five senior judicial positions, and is headed by the Chief Justice of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court. That man is Justice Farouk Sultan. Traditionally the head of the highest court in the country is its most senior justice. But not this time. Sultan was a military judge for many years but Mubarak promoted him within a three-year period to first head a district court in 2006, and then appointed him as the head of the Supreme Court in 2009. Many legal and political experts believe that Mubarak chose him for that position in order to orchestrate the rise of his son, Gamal to the presidency that was supposed to have taken place in 2011 had Mubarak survived.

During the recent presidential elections, the PEC received some twenty appeals from various presidential candidates. But the only one accepted was the appeal of Gen. Ahmad Shafiq. As the last prime minister of the Mubarak regime, Shafiq was barred from politics for ten years by parliament in March of this year. However, Sultan and the PEC ruled that this law was unconstitutional although the commission did not have the legal authority to overturn the law, as it was administrative in nature and not judicial (despite being comprised of judges).

As Mubarak’s trial (dubbed in Egypt as ‘The Trial of the Century’) was underway, the political charade became more transparent. The Mubarak-appointed judge Ahmad Rifaat, who chaired the 3-judge panel overseeing the trial, refused to transfer Mubarak to the prison hospital and instead kept him in a military hospital where he enjoyed the perks of a former president. He allowed several senior Mubarak officials to testify, including former Vice President Omar Suleiman, military chief and Egypt’s effective ruler since Feb. 2011, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, as well as two former interior ministers.

All of these witnesses tried to absolve Mubarak from any culpability in the security crackdown on the peaceful protesters. Court records released recently show that whenever the frustrated prosecutors tried to get details by asking these senior officials probing questions or through demonstrating inconsistencies in their testimonies, the presiding judge would interrupt and not allow the questioning to proceed. As the trial ended last February, Judge Rifaat said he would announce his ruling on the trial on June 2, in the midst of the presidential elections.

Since the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) took over the reign of power in the country in February of last year promising a transition to democracy, the struggle has been between two conflicting visions for Egypt. The revolutionaries, who comprise large segments of Egyptian society including Islamic and secular groups, aspire to a new democratic Egypt, raising the slogans of freedom, dignity, and social justice. On the other hand those who benefited from the corruption of the Mubarak regime including influential politicians from the now-banned National Democratic Party (NDP), crooked businesspeople, and the beneficiaries of the security state, called in Egypt, the fulool or remnants of the former regime, long for the days when they ruled and ripped off the country with total impunity.

For most of last year, the fulool laid low waiting for a ripe opportunity for a comeback. They relied on the military council to ride the revolutionary spirit until the public became exhausted with a weary process that addressed little of their daily struggles. Meanwhile, the military allowed basically free and fair parliamentary elections, resulting in the Islamic parties gaining about 75 percent of the seats. But despite the decisive outcome, the military refused to change the government that comprised Mubarak-era ministers, while the state media relentlessly attacked the new parliament as being ineffective in solving people’s daily hardships. In fact, the economic situation became much worse in recent months as basic goods became scarce including bread and cooking oil, while gas prices hit the roof. Furthermore, security became a major problem as crime rates in Egypt jumped significantly higher than any time in modern Egyptian history.

Enter Gen. Shafiq. In February, Mubarak’s Prime Minister announced his candidacy as the person to restore security within 24 hours and return the Egyptian economy to stability and growth. Although denied by SCAF’s spokesman, he then claimed that he sought and received the backing of the military for his candidacy. Shafiq has vocally said that Mubarak was his role model and openly regretted the success of the revolution.

He flagrantly tried to exploit the rift between the Islamists and the secularists vowing to fight the religious groups. He also sent plain signals to the Christian minority in Egypt by warning against the emergence of a “religious state.” In an unmistakable message sent to the U.S. and Israel, Gen. Shafiq said that he wanted Cairo, not Palestine, to be the capital of Egypt, an implicit attack on his opponents, who publicly declared their support for the Palestinians in their struggle against Israeli occupation. In short, through Shafiq’s candidacy the fulool found their man and consequently hundreds of former NDP politicians, corrupt businesspeople, and former security chiefs joined his campaign.

Those include his campaign manager, Gen. Mahmud Wagdy, who served as Mubarak’s last interior minster under whose direction the infamous Battle of the Camel was waged on Feb. 2, 2011 by the armed goons in an effort to dislodge the revolutionary youth from Tahrir Square. Dozens of people were killed that day, while thousands were injured as a result of the vicious attacks. In addition, Shafiq’s campaign directors in every major province are former security chiefs aided by former NDP officials in those regions.

During the Mubarak era, it was the task of the security chief in each province to secure the support and loyalty of the local mayors and officials to the regime. Meanwhile the businesspeople linked to the Mubarak system of state cronyism were happy to finance his campaign (and their comeback) by spending tens of millions of pounds. Since the first round of the elections, when Shafiq came in second at 24 percent (within one percent of Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Dr. Muhammad Mursi), much evidence has surfaced about the funding of his campaign.  For instance, one Shafiq bankroller turned out to be the wife of convicted billionaire and corrupt politician and businessman, Ahmad Ezz, the mastermind of the 2010 elections fraud and Gamal Mubarak’s scheme to succeed his father.

Egyptians, Arabs, and indeed the world waited for the fateful day on June 2 for the announcement of the judgment on Mubarak and his culprits. After a fifteen-minute rant by Judge Rifaat, in which he praised the revolution and condemned the former regime, he announced his appalling, but not so shocking, ruling. He sentenced Mubarak and his former interior minister Al-Adly to life sentences for the killing of the protesters. He then acquitted Mubarak, his sons, and Hussein Salem on the financial corruption charges because the statute of limitation had run out. He also acquitted the six security chiefs of all charges in regard to the killing of the protesters, citing a lack of evidence.

Western observers, including media outlets and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, did not see the ruse and initially praised the ruling where for the first time in the history of the Arab World a head of state was tried, convicted, and sentenced to what is seemingly a harsh sentence (The trial of Saddam Hussein was not considered independent because it was conducted under American military occupation.).

But Egyptians were not fooled. They immediately condemned the political nature of the rulings and took to the streets across Egypt by the hundreds of thousands, in scenes reminiscent of the early days of the revolution. The consensus and unity generated by these sentences within all the strands of the revolutionary groups, as well as the families of the fallen and injured, may have been the result of SCAF’s and the fulool’s gross miscalculation that the revolutionary spirit had waned or that their comeback was imminent.

It should also be noted that in anticipation of Mubarak sons’ acquittals and the possibility of massive riots, the prosecutors indicted both sons last week on money laundering and insider trading on Egypt’s stock market. They were charged with illegally gaining as much as 2 billion pounds (about $330 million) over several years. Because of these charges Mubarak’s sons were not released after their acquittal this week. But Mubarak’s supporters still hope that when Shafiq wins the presidency in two weeks these charges would be dropped, as their dad would be pardoned.

But why are most Egyptians angry at the verdicts?

First, the political nature of the rulings cannot be overstated. Acquitting Mubarak and his sons on financial corruption should have been foreseen, as the prosecutors knew that the statute of limitation had run out. They had dozens of other criminal complaints on Mubarak and sons involving corrupt financial transactions and shady land deals worth billions of dollars over many years.

Secondly, the conviction of Mubarak and his interior minister was political because the judge declared in his ruling that he did not know how the protesters actually died since the forensic evidence was inconclusive. But in actual fact there are direct declarations from former interior ministry officials that most of the evidence was shredded and destroyed shortly after the ouster of Mubarak under the military council by the same security chiefs that were acquitted.

Many legal experts believe that by acquitting these security chiefs, who would have essentially carried out Mubarak’s orders, the conviction of their superiors would surely be ultimately overturned on appeal. In short, the judge may have sacrificed Mubarak momentarily as he saved his sons and the regime.

Moreover, during the past 16 months, not a single person, let alone any senior official, has been convicted of killing a single protester. All of the junior officers tried in Egypt during the past year have been acquitted. Even Mubarak and Al-Adly’s convictions are now susceptible to be overturned on appeal, since Mubarak himself did not kill the protesters. If his underlings are innocent then how could he have carried out the murders? And of course if Shafiq becomes president not only would he pardon the deposed dictator, but he would possibly restore to him the status of a former president.

Since February, the political process underway in Egypt has been carefully manipulated by SCAF and the fulool. The tactic hinged on dividing the revolutionary groups, and gradually restoring power to the former regime elements by convincing the majority of Egyptian voters that their security, economic stability, and future could not be trusted with such divided, inexperienced, and novice political parties. In addition, regional countries led by the Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait, as well as foreign international powers including the U.S, Israel, and some European countries sent unmistakable signals to the Egyptian electorate that voting for Shafiq would bring stability, security, and economic prosperity, in an effort to reproduce the old regime with a democratic façade.

But instead of bringing most Egyptians closer to choosing Shafiq, the plot has backfired. As a consequence of the verdicts, the exhausted Egyptians have been reinvigorated and their unity reestablished, in a display unseen since February 11, 2011, the day Mubarak was ousted from power. In essence, the pronouncement of the trial’s outcome has sent a loud and unambiguous signal that all the gains of the revolution are now in jeopardy. Unless the revolutionary groups unite, convincingly win the second round of presidential elections to be held on June 16 and 17, and defeat Shafiq, the SCAF’s and fulool’s candidate, the Mubarak regime would indeed re-create itself and dash the hopes and aspirations of Egypt’s youth and pro-democracy groups.

Meanwhile, the MB’s candidate in the runoff, Dr. Mursi, announced that if he were elected president, he would form an independent investigative commission headed by a senior judge with impeccable credentials in order to gather evidence and retry Mubarak and his cronies. On the other hand, most Egyptian groups in support of the revolution see the imminent dangers that would result in a fulool comeback. They have announced their support for a presidential team to consist of the MB’s Mursi as president, and Dr. Abdelmoneim Abol Fotouh and Hamdein Sabahi, the runner-ups in the first round, as vice presidents. There have also been strong calls to have Dr. Mohammad Elbaradei, the former head of the UN Atomic Agency included in this team and serve as Prime Minister.

The three candidates representing different constituencies within the revolutionary groups (Mursi, Sabahi, and Abol Fotouh) received more than 15 million votes in the first round or about 65 percent of the total votes cast. It’s now up to the MB to rise to the challenge and unite all pro-revolution Egyptians.  If such a presidential slate can be formed, it would be next to impossible for the fulool candidate to win. Only through such unity and a firm determination to overcome the petty differences -compared to what is at stake- can the Egyptians claim back their popular revolt. One of the most remarkable and peaceful revolutions in the history of the world.

Esam Al-Amin can be contacted at

June 4, 2012 Posted by | Corruption, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , | Comments Off on Sacrificing Mubarak to Save His Regime

Qatari spy chief held at Cairo Airport with bags of cash

Press TV – May 30, 2012

A new report says the Qatari intelligence chief was held by security forces at the Cairo Airport while carrying bags of cash a few days before the first round of Egypt’s presidential election.

The incident occurred on Saturday night when the Qatari ambassador to Cairo, who had appeared at the airport to receive a guest, attempted to get large baggage passed through without allowing inspection on it, citing the exigencies of a “diplomatic mission.”

The security forces at the Cairo Airport, though, insisted that the baggage be inspected since the matter had not been coordinated with the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.

When the bags were inspected, millions of dollars were found in them. Upon the disclosure, the Qatari ambassador had to disclose the identity of his guest, which had until then not been provided to the security forces.

The individual was identified as the Qatari intelligence chief, Ahmed Zaif, who had personally delivered the cash.

The incident is now widely believed to be an attempt on the part of Qatar to interfere in Egypt’s presidential election. The large number of votes announced to have been cast in favor of presidential hopeful Ahmad Shafiq implicate that huge campaign expenses, mostly allocated by Saudi Arabia and Egypt, have been spent to secure Shafiq’s victory in the election.

Mustafa al-Qanimi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood party, said in an interview recently that the election results have left no doubt that a huge sum of money has been spent in the course of the election with the aim of securing Shafiq’s victory.

Thousands of people took to the streets of the capital, Cairo, after the electoral commission confirmed that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi and former Egyptian Premier Ahmed Shafiq will face off in the country’s presidential runoff next month.

Revolutionaries in more than ten cities and governorates took to the streets, protesting the result and demanding Shafiq’s exclusion from the election. They also demanded the application of his political isolation, as the ex-premier was a prominent figure of the country’s deposed ruler, Hosni Mubarak.

May 30, 2012 Posted by | Corruption | , , , , | Comments Off on Qatari spy chief held at Cairo Airport with bags of cash