|Al-Ahram Weekly Online
7 - 13 March 2002
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
First of its kind
A CAIRO misdemeanors court began on Sunday the trial of web designer and Al-Ahram Weekly web master, Shohdy Surur, for posting a critical political poem written by his late father, Naguib Surur, more than 30 years ago on the Internet. The publication of the well-known poem, which has a sexually explicit title and is known as the "Ummeyat," was considered by authorities to have violated existing laws aimed at protecting "public morality." If convicted, Surur could face up to two years in prison or a LE10,000 fine, said Surur's lawyer, Hafez Abu Se'da.
The case against Surur is unprecedented. The department at the Interior Ministry known as the Vice Police (Mabaheth Al-Adab) has in the past ordered the arrest of a number of young men who had posted their nude pictures on gay net sites. No action was ever taken against sites with a political content, such as the one on which Naguib Surur's poem was posted.
Surur told the Weekly he will tell the court in its upcoming session on 14 April that it was "actually impossible" to prove that the site where his father's poem was posted belonged to him. Although the site, known as Wadada.Net, is registered under Surur's name, he said that meant nothing, "because I can take a computer to court and establish a Web site for the judge himself and register it in his name."
Like most Egyptian intellectuals who know Naguib Surur's poem well, the son vehemently denied that it had anything to do with sex. Almost all critics agree that the poem was "clearly political and a reflection of the author's deep frustration and bitter feelings after what he experienced (under late President Gamal Abdel-Nasser) as a political dissident," Surur said.
Returnees from Azerbaijan
AS PART of the process of stepping up international cooperation in combating terrorism, Azerbaijani authorities deported two Egyptians arrested for allegedly participating in terrorist organisations back home. Little is known about the men extradited on 28 February, except that they were allegedly involved in activities with the outlawed Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiya.
Following the 11 September attacks on the US, Azerbaijan deported around 10 Egyptians suspected of having links with terrorist groups. In 1998, Azerbaijan handed over to Cairo Ahmed Salama Mabrouk, allegedly a leading member of Jihad. Mabrouk was sentenced to life in prison in the case dubbed by the press as the "Returnees from Albania," along with 107 other key Jihad figures. According to Islamist sources, those extradited from Azerbaijan along with others deported from various countries are expected to face a military trial following interrogations.
SHERIF El-Filali, a 36-year-old businessman accused of spying for Israel, contested the Supreme State Court's authority during his 27 February retrial hearing. A day later, however, El-Filali changed his mind and his lawyer apologised to the court.
Filali's lawyer, Said Abdel-Khaleq, informed presiding judge Mohamed Abdel-Meguid Shalabi that he did not approve of Filali's first decision. He even went as far as telling the court that he would withdraw from the case. El-Filali had told the court from behind bars that he contests its eligibility to try his case, and professed feelings of "extreme danger because the court was not accepting the defence's requests."
Filali was released after his first trial last summer. In accordance with the Emergency Law, in effect since 1981, the prosecution rejected the sentence and appealed. El-Filali was arrested again for a new trial.
AN APPEALS court upheld on 28 February a nine-year imprisonment sentence handed down last year against the son of late president Gamal Abdel-Nasser for writing bad cheques. Abdel-Hakim Abdel-Nasser, an engineer, was also ordered to pay a fine of LE60,000 after having been found guilty of issuing three bad cheques valued at LE9.5 million to the Banque du Caire, in return for a loan for the same amount.
The son of the late hero of Arab nationalism issued the cheques as the legal representative of a contracting company. He has not been imprisoned and has another chance to appeal, court sources said. The appeals court handed down its ruling in absentia.
EGYPT'S population reached an estimated 68 million last January, Ihab Elwi, the chairman of the Central Agency for Mobilisation and Statistics, informed Egyptians at a 27 February press conference.
Approximately 34 million or 51 per cent of the population are males, according to Elwi. In 2001, the daily birth rate was 3,655, which means the country had a newborn every 23.6 seconds. He said an estimated two million Egyptians worked abroad.
Elwi said a very slight decrease in the population growth rate in 2001 as compared to the previous year "signified a margin of success in facing the problem of overpopulation."
On a bleaker note, he said almost 59 per cent of the population was over 15 and the unemployment rate had risen to nine per cent of the workforce.
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