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Morsy’s meeting the Supreme Council of the Judiciary: nothing has changed

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President Mohamed Morsy said he respects and appreciates the judiciary, he’s assured the judges that their independence would never be compromised. Although the president expressed such sentiment, practically speaking he has not offered the judges any concessions.

He said there would be no amendments to the constitutional decree and that protection from legal review would be for “acts of sovereignty” only.

The president’s spokesperson did not define what an “act of sovereignty” is exactly or who decides whether a decision is indeed an “act of sovereignty” or a regular administrative decision.

The president can issue a decision, call it an “act of sovereignty” and it would have to be proven otherwise first before it can even be challenged in a court.

The traditional definition of “act of sovereignty” which includes things like declaring war and changing the country’s borders have always been protected from judicial oversight in Egypt, the president did not need to issue a constitutional decree saying that unless he intends to expand what “acts of sovereignty” encompass.

He also said that reopening investigations in cases of killing protestors during the revolution mentioned in the decree would only be in cases where new evidence appears.

This affirms what many in the opposition were saying, which is that the president included things in his decree to appear as if he’s meeting revolutionary demands in order to mask a power grab. It is highly unlikely that new evidence in crimes of killing protestors during the 18-day uprising of 2011 will appear simply because between Mubarak’s police and prosecutors, all evidence has been properly disposed of.

An important thing to note, however, is there was a high turnout at the judges’ general assembly meeting on Saturday where they released a statement condemning the decree and voted for a judicial strike. This means that the judges may not approve of the outcome of the meeting between the president and their leaders and may even opt for a vote of no confidence, although that would mostly be a symbolic move.

Finally, the Muslim Brotherhood has called off tomorrow’s protest, stating their wish to avoid clashes and bloodshed. They had initially changed the venue from Abdeen to in front of Cairo University in order to stay away from Tahrir Square where the opposition intends to stage a million man protest tomorrow but the Brotherhood have now postponed their protest altogether.


Written by Ahmed Aboulenein

November 26, 2012 at 11:55 pm

English translation of the constitution draft – part 1

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Preliminary draft of the proposed constitution of the Arab Republic of Egypt

Part I – State and Society

Article 1

The Arab Republic of Egypt is an independent sovereign state and is united and indivisible, its system is democratic.

The Egyptian people are a part of the Arab and Islamic nations, are proud of belonging to the Nile Basin and Africa, their connections to Asia, and actively participate in Human Civilisation.

Article 2

Islam is the state religion, its official language Arabic, and the principles of Islamic Shari’a are the main source of legislation.

Article 3

For Egyptian Christians and Jews, the principles of their religious laws are the main source of legislation in personal and religious matters as well as in the selection of their spiritual leaders.

Article 4

Al-Azhar is an independent Islamic body and it alone addresses its internal affairs. Its scope covers the Muslim nation and the entire world. It spreads religious studies and the call to Islam. The state guarantees sufficient funds for it to achieve its goals. The law determines the method for selecting Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam, who shall be independent and cannot be removed from office.

The opinion of Al-Azhar’s Council of Grand Scholars shall be taken in matters related to Islamic Shari’a.

Article 5

Sovereignty belongs to the people who exercise and protect it, safeguard national unity, and authority is derived from them, all in the manner set out in the constitution.

Article 6

The democratic system is built on the principles of citizenship, citizenship that makes all citizens equal in rights and duties, political and partisan plurality, the rule of law, respect for human rights, guaranteeing rights and freedoms, peaceful transfer of power, separation of powers and balancing between them, all in the manner set out in the constitution.

Political parties may not be established on basis of discriminating between citizens on grounds of sex, origin or religion.

Article 7

Egyptian society is based on justice, equality, freedom, mercy, social solidarity, camaraderie between its members regarding protecting their lives, honour and money, and achieving sufficiency for all citizens.

Article 8

The state shall ensure security, tranquillity and equal opportunities for all citizens without discrimination.

Article 9

Family is the basis of society and its foundations are religion, morality and patriotism.

The state and society ensure the authentic character of the Egyptian family, its cohesion, stability, and protecting its traditions and moral values.

Article 10

The state is obliged to sponsor and protect ethics and public morals, empower authentic Egyptian traditions, take into account a high level of nurturing, religious and patriotic values, scientific facts, Arab culture, the historical and cultural heritage of the people, as regulated by the law.

Article 11

The state protects the cultural, civilizational and linguistic unity of Egyptian society, and works towards Arabisation of sciences and knowledge.

Article 12

The creation of a civilian ranks is prohibited.

Article 13

The national economy aims to: achieve sustainable and balanced development, protect production and increase income, ensure social justice, solidarity and welfare, safeguard the rights of workers, ensure a fair distribution of wealth, raise the standard of living, eradicate poverty and unemployment, increase employment opportunities, achieve a partnership between capital and labour in bearing the cost of development, ensure equitable sharing of the revenues, link pay to production, lessen the disparities between incomes through introducing a maximum wage and guaranteeing a minimum wage, all to ensure a decent life for every citizen.

Article 14

Agriculture is main component of the national economy. The state is obliged to protect and develop farmland, crops, plant species, animal breeds, and fish resources, achieve self-sufficiency, meet the needs of agricultural production, and provide good management and marketing, and support agricultural industries and crafts.

The law regulates the use of farmland in a manner that achieves social justice and protects farmers and agricultural workers from exploitation.

Article 15

All natural resources belong to the people, who are entitled to the returns. The state is obliged to maintain such resources and use them properly while ensuring the needs of national defence and economy are met and the rights of future generations are preserved. All money without owners belongs to the state.

No concessions or obligations on the part of the state allowing for the use of state lands, natural resources, or public utilities may be granted to other parties except by law.

Article 16

The Nile River and groundwater resources are a national wealth and may not be converted into private property. The state is obliged to preserve, protect and develop them and prevent any attacks on them. The law regulates the means of utilising them.

Article 17

The state is obliged to protect its beaches, seas, and lakes, maintain its antiquities and natural reserves, and remove any infringements that take place upon them.

Article 18

The state guarantees and protects the different forms of legitimate ownership be they public, cooperative, private or religious endowments as regulated by the law.

Article 19

Public funds are inviolable, and protecting them is national duty on the parts of both the state and society.

Article 20

The state shall sponsor and support cooperatives of all forms, ensure their independence, and regulate craft industries, encourage them in a manner that leads to the advancement of production and the increase of income.

Article 21

Employees share in the management and profits of projects, and are committed to the development of production, preserving its tools, implementing its plans in their production unites as regulated by the law. They are represented by fifty percent in the membership of elected boards of directors in the public sector, and eighty percent in the membership of boards of directors in cooperatives, agricultural and industrial societies.

Article 22

Beneficiaries of service projects of public service shall participate in their management and oversight as regulated by the law.

Article 23

Private property is inviolable, and performs its social duty in serving the national economy without misapplication, exploitation or monopoly. It may not be placed under sequestration except in cases defined by law and with a court order. It may not be confiscated except for the public good and for a fair compensation that is to be paid in advance. The right to inheritance is guaranteed, all as regulated by the law.

Article 24

The state is obliged to revive and encourage the religious endowmnets system.

The law regulates religious endowments, determines the procedures for founding and managing them, investing them, and distributing their returns on beneficiaries as per the terms of the endowers.

Article 25

The system of taxes and public costs is based on social justices and paying them is a duty. Imposing, cancelling, exempting or assigning more than them shall be regulated by the law.

Article 26

Nationalisation is prohibited except for the public good, through a law, and in return for fair compensation.

Article 27

Mass confiscation of funds is prohibited, and specific confiscation is barred except by court order.

Written by Ahmed Aboulenein

October 16, 2012 at 12:16 am

Posted in Egypt, Politics, Translation

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July 23’s forgotten man

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As the newspapers of yesterday were filled with photos of Gamal Abdel Nasser and articles commemorating his July 23 coup or revolution, depending on your political inclinations, one man was again absent from the yearly love fest: General Mohamed Naguib, Egypt’s first president and the leader of the 1952 movement.

In 1949, Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser, then a mid-level military officer and founder of the Free Officer’s Movement, invited Naguib to join and lead the group. The reason Nasser would give up power, if only seemingly, was that at the time all the movement’s members, including Nasser himself, were young low ranking officers in their mid thirties. They needed an older, more recognised name to act as leader.

Naguib was the perfect man for the job; he had been one of the very few military men seen as heroes in the aftermath of the 1948 war, was known inside the military for being a polite, pious, as well as cultured an educated man (Naguib had a law degree in addition to his military education and training), his stance against King Farouk, and was generally very respected within the military.

Following the Arab defeat in the 1948 war Naguib became even more disillusioned with the monarchy and the top military brass and political elites whose corruption he blamed for the defeat.

He had previously submitted his resignation twice to King Farouk, once after February 4, 1942 standoff at Abdeen Palace were British tanks surrounded the royal palace and the British forced the king to appoint the Wafd Party’s Moustafa El-Nahas as prime minister and ask him to form a Wafd cabinet. Naguib felt humiliated at the extent of British intervention in Egyptian affairs and wrote to the king saying that “since the army was not called upon to defend Your Majesty, I am ashamed to wear this uniform and ask your permission to resign.” Farouk denied his request.

Naguib tried to resign again in 1951 after Farouk appointed Hussein Serri Amer, who had a reputation of corruption, as Coast Guard chief instead of Naguib after he refused to promote him at the king’s request. Farouk again refused his resignation and Naguib elected to stay within the military in order to help and protect the Free Officers.

On January 6, 1952 Naguib, backed by the Free Officers, was elected as head of the Officer’s Club, defeating Hussein Serri Amer who was nominated by the king. This was unprecedented as the king’s nominees always won the post and in response Farouk dissolved the club’s executive board.

Farouk’s move, and the Cairo Fires of January 26, as well as the fact that the government was close to arresting the Free Officers after discovering their names and plans, led to Nasser changing his plan to launch the coup in 1955 and bringing it forward to July 23, 1952.

Naguib was immediately declared Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces in order to keep the military loyal and under control and the Free Officers formed the Revolutionary Command Council with Naguib as chairman and Nasser as vice chairman.

They appointed Ali Maher Pasha as prime minister, tasking him with forming a cabinet and forced King Farouk to abdicate in favour of his infant son Ahmed Fouad who became King Fouad II. Farouk was then exiled.

Maher disagreed with the RCC over several policies, most notably land reform, and resigned three months later. In September 1952 the RCC appointed Naguib as prime minister and member of Fouad’s regency council. Nasser became deputy prime minister and minister of interior, preferring to work in the background at the time.

Almost a year after the officer’s coup, the RCC abolished the monarchy and declared Egypt a republic in September 1953 and Naguib was proclaimed president alongside his roles as prime minister, RCC chairman and commander-in-chief, effectively making him Egypt’s strongman leading a government composed of mostly military men. Only as a figurehead, however, as the days would soon prove.

It was at this point that Naguib began to clash with the other RCC members, led by Nasser, over the revolution’s goals and how to implement them. Naguib felt that the best course of action would be for the military to withdraw from political life and allow free parliamentary elections and the return of political parties. Nasser felt that the parties were all corrupt and had been complicit with the monarchy in causing Egypt’s deterioration.

Nasser wanted the military to rule, feeling that civilian rule would lead to groups like Wafd and the Muslim Brotherhood gaining back power. Naguib in contrast envisioned an Ataturk-style military that remained out of public life but had the obligation to interfere and overthrow a corrupt regime when needed.

“At the age of 36, Abdel-Nasser felt that we could ignore Egyptian public opinion until we had reached our goals, but with the caution of a 53-year-old, I believed that we needed grassroots support for our policies, even if it meant postponing some of our goals. I differed with the younger officers on the means by which to reach our goals, never on the principles,” Naguib later wrote in his book I Was President of Egypt.

Naguib also resented the fact that he was responsible for decisions he did not make. As president and RCC chairman Naguib would sign off on decisions taken against his will as he would regularly be out-voted in RCC meetings, with the RCC being the real decision maker.

On February 22, 1953 Naguib submitted his resignation to the RCC. On the 25th they released a statement saying they removed him from his position because he asked for dictatorial powers and Nasser accused him of being a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer involved in a plot to overthrow the RCC. Nasser took over as prime minister and RCC chairman with the presidency remaining vacant. Major Abdel Hakim Amer had earlier been promoted from Major to General and entrusted with the position of commander-in-chief.

The next day mass protests broke out against the decision, calling for Naguib to be reinstated. The RCC had no choice and issued a statement reappointing Naguib as president. Without any of his other previous positions, however, Naguib would become even more of a figurehead with the title of president being largely ceremonial.

Naguib’s final stand would come one month later in what is now known as the March 1954 Crisis. As soon as he reassumed the presidency, Naguib called for a meeting of the Constituent Assembly on March 5 and tasked it with drafting a new democratic constitution as soon as possible. He then met with the RCC on March 25 and after getting its approval issued a decree saying that political parties would now be allowed again, the RCC would be barred from creating a party, the Constituent Assembly would be directly elected and would elect a president after on its first meeting and the RCC would dissolve itself on July 24, proclaiming the revolution officially over and handing over power to elected civilians.

However, on March 28 massive protests broke out in front of parliament, the presidential palace and the State Council against democracy and political parties chanting “no to parliament or parties” and “down with democracy and freedom.” One of the main organisers of the protests, transport union head Sawy Ahmed Sawy, later admitted receiving EGP 4,000 from Nasser in return for staging the protests. The RCC responded by cancelling Naguib’s decisions who responded by submitting his resignation only for Nasser to reject it, fearing similar protests as the February ones.

On November 14, 1954, Mohamed Naguib headed from his house to the presidential office only to notice that the military police were not giving him a military salute.  As he walked out of his car and headed towards the building, he was met with three officers and 10 soldiers carrying rifles. He yelled at them telling them their actions would cause a battle with the republican guard. Two military policemen followed him up the stairs and when he enquired they said they had permission from the head of the presidential guard.

Naguib called Nasser and informed him of the situation and Nasser said he would send Amer, the military’s commander-in-chief, to deal with the situation. Amer arrived shortly and informed Naguib that the RCC has decided to remove him as president. Naguib answered that he did not want to resign as to not be responsible for civil strife but if he was being removed then he had no problem with it.

Amer told Naguib he would be placed under house arrest in Zeinab Al-Wakeel’s (El-Nahas’s wife) villa for a few days. Naguib spent the next 30 years in the villa, the first 17 as a prisoner. He was only released in 1974 by then-President Anwar El-Sadat and died in 1984. His name would not be mentioned in school history books before the late 1990s. He suffered mistreatment and insult in his solitary prison where he wrote his book I Was President of Egypt.

“I wish I had not returned [to public life],” Naguib wrote. “Everyone was in a state of bitterness because of defeat and occupation. All they talked of was pain and lack of hope at expelling the Israeli occupation. In addition to that there were the victims of the revolution, those who were just released from prisons and suffered torture. And even those who were not imprisoned felt fear and humiliation. I then realised how much of a crime the revolution committed against the Egyptian citizen, who lost his freedom, dignity, land, his troubles doubled, sanitation was a mess, water was scarce, morals decayed, and the people were lost.”

Written by Ahmed Aboulenein

July 23, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Posted in Egypt

AUC’s Hidden Treasures – Part 1: Were thefts of antiquities part of well-kept conspiracy?

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For 30 years AUC has hosted Egyptian antiquities from different eras of history, yet most students, faculty and staff have never seen them or even knew about them. The existence of these antiquities was only revealed to the public after they were stolen in late 2010 and the media publicized the theft. The Caravan has conducted an investigation into this matter. We publish this four-part series answering questions like where these objects came from, where they were housed and how they were stolen.

By Reem Gehad Fathy and Ahmed Aboul Enein

Part 1: Were thefts of antiquities part of well-kept conspiracy?

Over the past year, several Egyptian antiquities in the care of The American University in Cairo have been quietly stolen and sold to collectors. A Caravan investigative report has uncovered the details of these thefts.

AUC has had antiquities, from different eras of Egypt’s history, stored under its Tahrir Square campus’s famous Ewart Hall for almost 30 years.

The antiquities, which are not owned by AUC, are registered with the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) and are kept in the university’s guardianship.

The existence of the antiquities, which were finally moved to the New Cairo campus on December 19, 2011, came to light after the on-campus newspaper The Independent reported on March 28, 2011 that 145 pieces were stolen in late 2010.

Theft revelations (March – May 2011)

AUC President Lisa Anderson said that the theft was reported to AUC indirectly.

“It was discovered, actually not directly, but somebody reported to us that somebody was trying to sell property of the university, and it turned out […] that some of these antiquities […] had been stolen,” she said.

The SCA issued an official statement on April 5, 2011 acknowledging the theft: “The [SCA] conducted a new inventory, revealing that 145 authentic pieces and 50 replicas were missing.”

It also stated that the collection “had previously been looted in 1989, with the culprit still at large.”

Inventory records at AUC show that nine pieces were missing in 1989. A police report carrying case number 2643 filed in Abdein police station in March of the same year confirms this, but the case went cold as no suspects were identified.

As for the 2010 case, six men were initially considered suspects: Adel Gaber, a security guard from AUC’s on campus security; Samir Abdallah, a security guard at the AUC gates; Mahmoud Mohamed aka Mahmoud Felfel, AUC safety officer; Hossam Mohamed, Felfel’s brother who worked in a pharmacy near AUC; Hassan Ismail, an electrician at the university’s maintenance department; and Ahmed Gad, also an electrician on campus and the person who reported the theft to AUC.

Gad had been asked to submit his resignation in December 2010 after Felfel accused him of stealing his laptop.

On May 10, 2011 five men were found guilty in military court case 77 of 2011, the charges of which had been amended by an earlier judge from theft to smuggling.

The judge made the amendment because of insufficient evidence to convict the men of theft. However, military court laws allow him to modify the charges and that there was enough evidence to convict the men of smuggling.

“If this is a smuggling case then who stole?” Felefel told The Caravan.

Gaber, Abdallah, Felfel were all sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay a penalty of EGP 500,000. Hossam Mohamed, Felfel’s brother, and Hassan Ismail were sentenced to three years in prison and also slapped with an EGP 500,000 penalty.

However, Hassan Ismail’s sentence was suspended as the court determined he had not stolen or smuggled anything and he was only involved in lighting the antiquities storage room for the others. He was released in May 2011.

Gad was found innocent and was released in May as well, after spending over 50 days in military prison pending investigations. He was listed as a witness in the case files and charges against him were dropped.

A few months later, a year after the January 25 revolution, the remaining four men were released when the case was pardoned as part of Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi’s general pardon in celebration of the first anniversary of the revolution.

AUC’s internal investigation (February 27 – March 9, 2011)

On February 27, 2011 Gad presented his manager, Director of Maintenance in the Tahrir Square campus Gamal Abdou, with a CD containing photos of antiquities he said were stolen by a number of campus workers, including Felfel. Abdou then reported the CD and the AUC security office started an internal investigation.

Hossam Abu Zeid, who was responsible then for internal security at the Tahrir Square campus (and currently holds the same position on the New Cairo campus), conducted the investigation.

The Caravan was able to obtain some of the internal investigation documents, one of which was the initial report Abu Zeid filed on February 27.

Copies of the February 27 report were sent to both Refaei Fattouh, assistant director of warehouses and stores and the man directly responsible for the storage of the antiquities, and Mokhtar Ragab, assistant director of security at the Tahrir Square campus.

Ragab said that neither he nor the security office in general were aware that the university housed antiquities of any kind.

In the report, Abu Zeid says he checked the scene of the crime accompanied by the Executive Director of the Office of Supply Chain Command and Business Support Aly El Araby, Fattouh, Ashraf Kamal, who was then the director of security, some supply chain command office staff, and some security staff.

They found that the lock was different from the original lock that Fattouh had the key to and they were forced to break in. They then found several boxes inside three chambers, each of which was surrounded by metal wires.

The boxes had hand and footprints on them, indicating that they had been touched recently. One of the boxes’ locks showed signs of an unsuccessful drilling attempt, the report says.

The report goes on to say that after this initial inspection of the crime scene, everyone left and Fattouh replaced the broken and partially drilled locks with new ones, fitted them and then locked the room. He kept one set of keys and gave the other to the security office.

Fattouh confirmed this to The Caravan. When asked about his interference and possible tampering with what was evidently a crime scene not yet investigated by the police, he said that the decision to enter and examine the storage room was made by the security department and not himself.

A week later, on March 6, 2011, Karim Abdel Latif, the university’s legal advisor, sent a letter to Sabry Abdel Aziz, head of the Egyptian antiquities sector, informing him that AUC has “suspicions” about the possibility of a theft of some antiquities in its custody.”

The letter did not mention that AUC had begun an internal investigation after Gad fingered a group of men as the perpetrators.

It also did not mention that AUC staff conducting the investigation visited the basement under Ewart Hall where the antiquities were stored and that the site was tidied up with new locks put in place.

The letter says that AUC’s suspicions are as a result of “tampering signs on the storage room’s door.”

Abdel Latif asked Abdel Aziz to put together an inventory control committee to check the antiquities at AUC to “confirm the validity of these suspicions.”

A committee was formed after the administrative decision number 163 was issued on March 14, 2011.

This committee was headed by Adel Abdel Rahman, general director of possessions in the Supreme Council of Antiquities, and included seven other members, one of whom had to be from the antiquities investigations authority, a department of the Egyptian police. No such member was present with the committee.

Legal counsel Abu El Nasr Mohamed Soliman, representing Felfel and his brother, filed a motion that the absence of an officer from the antiquities investigations authority was in violation of the criminal code and that the committee should not be able to produce reports.

Meanwhile, during AUC’s on-going internal investigation the security office tried to negotiate with the men in question to return the antiquities, a confidential source told The Caravan.

However, the negotiations broke down as the men demanded to keep their jobs and some even demanded pay raises.

Fattouh confirmed that Abu Zeid was negotiating with them, but acknowledged that he did not succeed in regaining the pieces.

According to his statement in the university’s internal investigation, Gad initially only named three men: Felfel, Abdullah, and Gaber.

Documents from the official case file show that he later added Hassan Ismail and Hossam Mahmoud, Felfel’s brother to the list of people he accused.

Gad said Ismail had only lit the storage room up for the other men, however.

How the theft went down: conflicting stories (October – December 2010)

According to a trusted anonymous source, the thefts did not happen all at once. The men went into the underground warehouse several times, taking a small number of pieces at a time, and hid them in their gym bags on their way out.

The men regularly played football on campus at night and the gym bags would not raise any suspicion.

Hassan Ismail later confirmed this story to The Caravan. He said that he learned this information in prison from the rest of the sentenced men, and that he was not involved.

He admitted to lighting the room for them once in October, however, but claimed he had no idea what they were doing and that he was just doing his job.

“It was when I had my night-shift in the university… Mahmoud [Felfel] called me that night – Adel [Gaber] was him – Mahmoud called me and said that [something needs to be fixed],” Ismail told The Caravan.

“I went where he was, he had the room opened, but it was dark and they did not know where the electric lines for the light were, so I lit the place and then left. There was a safety officer and a security guard, and so when they open a place [I don’t really ask] ‘why did you open it’.”

Later, the men showed the pieces to an antiquities “expert” who was meant to help evaluate and sell them. The expert, who was not identified, was an acquaintance of Gad’s according to The Caravan’s anonymous source.

Hassan Ismail and Gad himself confirmed this relationship.

Felfel, Abdullah and Gaber arranged a meeting with Gad at his house and brought with them a CD of photos of some of the antiquities they took.

Gad kept a copy of the CD.

They also, according to Gad’s testimony, had about 20 pieces of pottery with them.

Gad was contacted in the first place because he was a member in the former ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) branch in Helwan and may have access to people who deal in antiquities.

Hassan Ismail confirmed this to The Caravan but accused Gad of complicity in the theft from the very beginning. He said Gad knew about the antiquities because he was close to Fattouh, and that it was he who convinced the others to carry out the theft.

Fattouh denied knowing Gad personally, saying that he only had a “work-based relationship” with him.

Gad also told The Caravan he provided Felfel, his brother, Abdullah and Gaber with an expert and confirmed his membership in the NDP.

But his account of the thefts was markedly different.

In Gad’s version, he was approached by the men who told him they had found an ancient tomb in the Badrashein area of Giza and that they had uncovered antiquities there.

They asked him to provide an expert to help them price the items and maybe find a buyer.

Gad told The Caravan that he agreed and contacted an acquaintance of his from the NDP on December 2, 2010. The acquaintance, who he did not name, examined photos of the antiquities stored on a CD provided by Felfel in a meeting at Gad’s house.

Gad says that on December 4, his acquaintance informed him that after closer examination, he was able to determine that the antiquities were stolen and that stamps on the items indicated they came from a “foreign scholarly institute.”

Having learned this, Gad says he put two and two together and deduced the pieces were stolen from AUC. He then decided he wanted nothing to do with the operation. Furthermore, he says he immediately contacted Gaber on the same day and asked him to return the antiquities.

Gad says that on December 6 he was forced to sign his resignation after he was accused of stealing Felfel’s laptop.

Gad claims that Felfel had lied about the laptop in a bid to intimidate him and prevent him from reporting the theft to the university. He also wanted to delete the antiquities photos Gad had stored on the same laptop.

But both Hassan Ismail, and a confidential source, dispute Gad’s version of events and suggest that it was more likely that he had a disagreement over how to divide the money procured from the illegal sale.

The Caravan was able to talk to Mahmoud Felfel who disputed both Hassan Ismail’s and Gad’s narratives.

He said that he had lost his laptop and one of his colleagues told him that he saw the laptop with Gad.

Once he confirmed this, he reported the matter to the security office.

Felfel says that Gad was asked to either submit his resignation or face a police investigation and that Gad decided to submit his resignation.

Felfel also accused Gad of trying to get back at him by fingering him for the theft. He added that he was not aware that there are antiquities on campus.

He also says that he barely knew Gaber, Abdullah and Gad.

The case became even more complicated when Mohamed Mahmoud Abdel Hamid, Mahmoud and Hossam Felfel’s father, filed a report (number 11812 for the year 2011) to the General Prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmoud.

In it he asks the general prosecutor to “lift the injustice off his sons” and he claims that Abu Zeid and Fattouh fabricated the case in cooperation with Ahmed Lasheen from the Abdein police station. He points out that the police did not inspect the scene of the crime.

Similarly, Felfel’s lawyer points out that the whole case is only built on a “report written by AUC’s security office in which the security also says that it was not aware of the presence of antiquities on campus.”

The security men, Adel Gaber and Samir Abdullah, also have their own version of the story.

They claim that Abu Zeid made them sign documents that they did not read because they trusted him when he said it was merely routine procedure.

Only later did they discover that the documents implicate them in the thefts.

These documents, of which The Caravan obtained a copy, were written in Abu Zeid’s office as part of the internal investigation.

In the documents, Gaber and Abdullah say that Ahmed Gad told them that there were antiquities below the main building on AUC’s Tahrir campus and that he asked them to help him and Mahmoud Felfel in stealing a number of pieces.

In return, they would get a percentage of the money gained from selling the pieces.

But according to the documents, Gaber and Abdullah felt guilty about what they did and told Felfel and Gad to return the pieces to the university.

Gaber and Abdullah decided to report the issue to the university, when the four fell into disagreement over returning the pieces (Gad and Felfel refused to do so).

However, lawyer Abu El Nasr Soliman doubts the veracity of these documents.

He suspects these documents were written in a way that indicates the testimony was phrased or coached by a police officer, and not by Gaber or Abdullah.

He points out that it is customary that the police or administrative person writing the report mentions the place where the crime happened, the district of jurisdiction, and the police station with jurisprudence over the area.

Gaber and Abdullah’s own statements in the report are phrased in the exact way; they each said these details in the correct order themselves, without being asked.

Soliman argues that no one, especially not two men with a modest educational background, would refer to a geographical area in that way. They would say “downtown or Tahrir Square” and leave it at that, but in the documents they name the area, district and police station.

Soliman argues that these are not actually Gaber and Abdullah’s statements, but that they were forced or tricked into signing false statements.

Regardless of the suspects’ conflicting statements and claims of innocence, one fact remains: 145 antiquities were stolen from AUC and remain missing.

How were they stolen from under the university’s watch? Why were they not better protected? Who was responsible for their storage?

Responsibility for the antiquities

Refaei Fattouh, assistant director of warehouses and stores, has been the sole custodian of the antiquities in AUC’s guardianship since 1994.

Fattouh said he did not know much about the theft or the objects, saying that he only kept books and attended inventory checks.

He says he had little actual interaction with the artifacts.

“I am just a porter, a doorman, for these antiquities,” he told The Caravan.

However, a memo dating back from 1994 shows that Fattouh has been directly responsible for the safety and upkeep of the antiquities, and that he has been attending regular annual inventories as part of a committee made up of AUC staff members and representatives from the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

The memo, sent from AUC Supply Chain Management and Business Support Director Aly El Araby on November 16, 1994, shows that Fattouh received the antiquities from SCA after they had taken them for inventory.

“I have been informed by the [Egyptian] antiquities authority that the committee assigned for the supervising of the delivery of AUC antiquities to Mr. Refai [sic] Fattouh will be present at Sunday Nov. 20 on 10 am,” the memo read.

El Araby was in charge of the antiquities but transferred that responsibility to Fattouh after the former was promoted to supply chain management director.

He and Fattouh are related by marriage; their wives are sisters.

Fattouh is the only person at AUC who has the keys to the storage room, however, and is directly responsible for the antiquities.

He was not directly questioned in the university’s internal investigation, however.

“We did do an internal investigation and concluded that although clearly people in charge of the downtown campus, in charge of inventory control, and in charge of security had been negligent,” Anderson told The Caravan.

“We did not ultimately conclude that they were criminally negligent… So they were reprimanded, but we didn’t go any further than that,” she added.

But The Caravan has learned that this is not the first time the antiquities kept at AUC were subjected to theft.

SCA records show that another theft had taken place in 1989; this is backed by AUC inventory records that show missing pieces in the late 1980s.

A police report – case number 2643 filed in Abdein police station in 1989 also confirms this. The case went cold as no suspects were identified.

The SCA records also confirm that there were missing pieces indicated by inventories taken in the early 1990s.

Aly El Araby was in charge of the antiquities at the time of these documented thefts.

But El Araby, like Fattouh, also denies knowing much about the antiquities in the first place even though documents confirm his caretaker responsibilities up until 1994.

SCA is meant to be performing annual inventories of the antiquities and both their and AUC’s records confirm this process.

According to SCA, they performed inventory checks on March 4, 2008, on February 5, 2009 and in April 2010, months before the theft.

However, Mokhtar Ragab, the top security official at the Tahrir Square campus, said in the internal investigation that neither he nor the security office had any knowledge of antiquities on campus.

Ashraf Kamal, who was at the time of the case AUC’s head of security, has also said the same thing in court.

Court records show that in his testimony, Kamal was asked how he did not know of the antiquities if SCA officials came to campus to perform inventories.

Kamal responded by saying he never saw any officials and that entry and exit records to the campus do not register such officials going in or out of campus.

Furthermore, an AUC employee who prefers to remain anonymous hinted to The Caravan that SCA officials never performed proper inventories and that everything was just on paper.

When confronted with Kamal’s statement, Fattouh told The Caravan that he had no comment regarding the entry and exit of SCA officials and that documents were proof of the inventories taking place.

When asked if he had even informed Kamal or anyone in the security office of the antiquities’ existence, he said he had not because he saw no reason to.

He explained that he is not senior staff and as such his seniors are the ones meant to inform the security office.

When The Caravan asked if he, the person responsible for the antiquities, ever asked for extra security for the storage area, he said he had not.

“These antiquities are on the university campus, AUC security should be protecting the entire campus,” he said.

Written by Ahmed Aboulenein

April 2, 2012 at 11:57 pm

Mr. Consensus and the coming deep state

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“There’s one hole in every revolution, large or small. And it’s one word long … People. No matter how big the idea they all stand under, people are small and weak and cheap and frightened. It’s people that kill every revolution.” – Spider Jerusalem

Mansour Hassan, head of the Advisory Council that the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces formed last December, has announced his intention to run in the upcoming presidential elections in May.

Hassan, 75 and sporting a severe heart condition, has declared that Sameh Seif El Yazal, a former military man and current “strategic expert,” will be his running mate. Hassan’s daughter is married to Mubarak’s Transport Minister, Mohamed Mansour, by the way.

(Edit: Seif El Yazal has since resigned from Hassan’s campaign, although that doesn’t mean he still can’t be named vice president. Or maybe someone else could be VP, a certain Crown Prince Lieutenant General Chief of Staff, perhaps?)

Within hours of his announcement, the Wafd party said it would endorse Hassan in the elections, only five hours after it had announced it would support Amr Moussa.

Rumors of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party’s impeding announcement of support for Hassan also made the rounds, but the Brotherhood and the FJP have since issued a denial.

State-owned daily Al Ahram has since published a feature on Hassan, revealing what some already knew.

Hassan was simultaneously both the Information and Culture Minister in the Sadat era, and in Sadat’s final days Hassan was also Minister of State for Presidential Affairs while keeping both the Information and Culture portfolios.

He was considered for the vice presidency but Mubarak was ultimately preferred for his military background and there was talk that Sadat had again considered him for the post to replace Mubarak right before his assassination.

Conspiracy theories aside (Mubarak/the military killed Sadat for wanting to replace an officer with a civilian, i.e. name him as successor, etc.) we know Mubarak did not like Hassan. One of the first things he did was de facto banishing him from the political scene.

Let us review here: head of SCAF’s Advisory Council, military man as vice president, trial balloons of major parties endorsing him making the rounds, state newspapers covering him favorably.

Ladies and Gentlemen: I give you the consensus president.

Factor in military prosecution “investigating” 12 prominent activists, media personalities, lawmakers and a best-selling novelist, all considered symbols of the January 25 uprising by some; the flood of courts declaring police officers accused of shooting protestors last January innocent; and finally today’s court ruling acquitting the military doctor accused of performing virginity tests and this is what you get: a revolution drawing its final breaths.

Imagine with me, if you will, the following sequence of events. Like that scene from V for Vendetta where the detective says he can feel what’s going to happen. Imagine.

Things stay seemingly calm until the presidential elections. Seemingly being the key word here. Activists and revolutionaries slowly get arrested, put on sham trials (not necessary military ones, the civilian judicial system has shown itself capable of being equally disgusting), the revolution is demonized in the media, with the state (read: SCAF) exerting increasing control over said media, economic problems worsen.

Then it’s May. Several parties and political forces choose to back Hassan. The elections move into runoff; Hassan is one of the top two candidates; the other probably Moussa, possibly Ahmed Shafik (Mubarak’s former Prime Minister, Civil Aviation Minister, Air Force Commander, “I’ve killed and been killed,” etc.)

June 2: Hosni Mubarak is found not guilty. Or receives very little time in prison. Massive protests erupt. It gets violent. SCAF says it can’t protect the runoff; more time is necessary, transfer of power to civilians needs to be postponed, six months only, we promise, the people and the army are one hand, we are no substitute for legitimacy.

And the kicker: both candidates left standing say they agree.

Not happy with that? Too unrealistic, you say? Maybe, but it’s not impossible. That alone is scary.

How about this: SCAF backs Hassan, Mr. Consensus. Wafd and other such small-time lackeys provide their blessings. He wins (see clause 28 of the presidential elections law.)

We get an Islamist parliament. Islamist weak parliament. Figurehead president, military pretty much in control of all affairs, deep state. Read up on contemporary Pakistani politics.

You don’t want that.

Written by Ahmed Aboulenein

March 12, 2012 at 2:24 am

Posted in Analysis, Egypt, Opinion

Caravan editorial Feb. 26: Representation and transparency

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Hundreds of students from different universities marched last week to Parliament. They had four main demands: No constitution under military rule; no presidential elections under military rule; swift trials of all those responsible for killing protesters; and finally, student representation on the committee that will draft the country’s constitution.

I am not so sure that last one is going to guarantee that representative student voices will be heard. If this request is granted, which students will be chosen to participate in the drafting process? Will it be the ones who marched to Parliament? Will their selection be democratic, and more importantly, transparent?

Among the marchers was a self-proclaimed elected delegation of 13 students who were meant to go into parliament and deliver the students’ message to the People’s Assembly’s education and youth committees as well as the PA Speaker Mohamed Saad El Katatni. However, these students were denied entry to the parliament building and seven other students were let in for unknown reasons. Obviously the 13-student delegation were outraged and refused the offer to have three of them join the seven inside (10 students were meant to meet with MPs that day).

They accused the seven of being affiliated with State Security (rebranded into National Security) or being members of the Muslim Brotherhood, etc. Regardless of whether or not these accusations are true, (one can easily imagine it was rather a lack of organization on the part of the MPs involved) the delegation had the right to be indignant. Or so it would seem on the surface. We need to examine how these 13 were chosen in the first place. Presumably the 13 representatives from public universities were chosen by their student unions, although the process of selection was never published to the public – an alarming problem in of itself. We do know, however, that the 13th warrior representing AUC was chosen through internal elections within a body called the “AUC Student Movement”

The question then becomes, what gives this “AUC Student Movement”, a body of less than 100 unelected students such executive powers. They would argue, with some validity, that they are the only ones taking action, as recent student marches prove. The fact remains that they are unelected. The would also argue that if such a representative were to be chosen by popular vote of the student body, it would quickly become the popularity contest we see every year in student government elections. And they would be right.

The problem here is not that they elected a person from within their own ranks, for that is indeed the more practical and effective solution. What is an issue, however, is labeling themselves as students, regardless of whether or not they clarify that they do not represent the entire student body. It all boils down to the roles we choose to adopt, or the hats we wear if you will. It is unethical for one to wear more than one.

If you’re going to be a revolutionary then fine, you do not need popular mandate. Mubarak would have won a referendum fairly in February but the right thing was to oust him and the revolutionaries did, without the majority’s consent. However, going to parliament and speaking on behalf of one of the country’s largest sectors – students – does require popular mandate. And popular mandate can only be achieved through elections and a transparent publicized process, not behind closed doors and amongst a minority, no matter how active and admirable this minority is. Furthermore, the argument that they are not representing the entire student body but rather a certain group is problematic as well. Why does this certain group get special privileges, what about all other groups on campus?

This is an opportunity squandered. Instead of representing the interests of the entire student body and gaining real legitimacy, it was wasted on furthering the views of like-minded individuals. Finally, if you want to be revolutionaries and not reformers, that’s fine. In my opinion even better, but do not select representatives and make demands as anything more than just yourselves. One hat at a time, please.

Written by Ahmed Aboulenein

February 27, 2012 at 2:53 am

Posted in AUC, Egypt, Opinion

AUC New Cairo Campus: You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy

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The Supreme Council of Armed Forces, Egypt’s de-facto ruling body, is not about to go. Not just yet. Soon maybe, for SCAF is in its most vulnerable state ever since it assumed power last year, but as the cliché goes: nothing is more dangerous than a cornered general.

And in its desperate hour the military council resorts to all sorts of cheap mind tricks to divert attention away from it. Away from the fact that it is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Egyptians, the latest batch meeting their end in Port Said less than a fortnight ago, away from the thousands injured in peaceful protests turned deadly street battles, from over 16,000 imprisoned as a result of unfair military trials, a large number of which on trumped up charges for daring to oppose their khaki-sporting overlords.

The latest of the cheap mind tricks seems to be not-so-subtly accusing The American University in Cairo of following in the footsteps of such esteemed players like Israel, Hamas, Qatar, Al Jazeera, Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood (oh how the times have changed) and Hezbollah in trying to destabilize Egypt, bring its state down, invade it, burn it, split it into four or five mini-states, etc. etc. etc.

The tale this time is that AUC is at the center of an American plot to bring about “the destruction of Egypt by Egyptian hands”. This revelation comes to us in the form of one of SCAF’s famous Facebook statement (most professional militaries have Facebook accounts, right?) only this time SCAF used their backup account, “The Administrator of the SCAF’s Official Facebook Page”- quite the mouthful – the one they use when accusing people of things for which they have no evidence (see: April 6 Youth Movement, NGOs, Wafd’s weekly newspaper).

According to the admin page, which technically is an unofficial page except for the fact that the official SCAF page “likes” it on Facebook, AUC is one of the invisible “arms” (it seems the “hands” have evolved, it has been a year, after all) of the United States administration’s plot that eventually leads to the invasion of Egypt in 2015.

This begs several questions: why would the Americans plan to invade one of their key strategic allies in the middle east, integral to Israel’s survival, a role Egypt plays against the wishes of the vast majority of the population, thanks – in no small part – to SCAF itself?

If SCAF has uncovered an American plot, why is Crown Prince Lieutenant General Sami Anan gladly meeting with U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, the top U.S. military official, i.e. the man supposedly planning Egypt’s invasion according to the narrative?

That is because “the American invasion” subplot is only for local consumption. Accuse foreign-funded NGOs and a university with “American” in its name, even though it has no official links to the U.S. government beyond receiving USAID, which SCAF receives the lion share of ($1.3 billion), at home to prey on the people’s nationalist feelings and divert attention from your corrupt rule and failed administration while still receiving U.S. officials in order to maintain your best friend and sugar daddy. Good plan, except for the fact that some Egyptians can read English and some Americans can read Arabic. SCAF can be forgiven for this small oversight though, who knew?

Why is SCAF picking on a small college with a student population of 7,000 – of which a majority cannot get through their first class without their Latte (I prefer Mocha) – for doing the same thing virtually every student union in the country has announced doing? How is showing documentaries and holding lectures aiding in an invasion plot exactly? It’s not like the general strike is exactly working here anyway.

SCAF’s days are numbered, it’s panicking and it’s backed in a corner. That means the revolution is still going at full force, but also means it faces grave danger.

Written by Ahmed Aboulenein

February 13, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Posted in AUC, Egypt, Opinion