Al-Ahram Weekly Online   3 - 9 May 2007
Issue No. 843
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875


MPs on the move

TWO MPs of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood were released on Monday while 12 others will remain in custody for 15 days pending an investigation. The pair were arrested on Sunday in the northern Nile Delta province of Menoufiya.

The MPs are Ragab Abu Zeid and Sabri Amer. The constitution gives security forces the right to arrest MPs if they are caught red-handed breaking the law, however, the general prosecutor still requested parliament for permission to question the lawmakers. According to security forces, Abu Zeid and Amer were arrested while taking part in what they described as a secret meeting in Abu Zeid's house. "Several documents and organisational plans were confiscated by police forces," said Ministry of Interior sources.

In a press conference on Monday, Hussein Ibrahim and Hamdi Hassan, two prominent Brotherhood MPs, said the arrests clearly violated Article 54 which states that all citizens have the right to peaceful and unarmed private assembly without the need for prior notice, and that security personnel should not attend such meetings. Hassan said MPs are not required to ask for permission from the Interior Ministry before they decide to hold a meeting.

"The Brotherhood MPs who were arrested were not caught while taking alcohol or drugs," said Ibrahim, adding that the arrests were a message from the Interior Ministry aimed at preventing the 88-member Muslim Brotherhood bloc in parliament from exercising their constitutional rights.

Al-Jazeera guilty

AN AL-JAZEERA journalist was found guilty of "harming Egypt's national interests" by a state security on Wednesday and sentenced in absentia to six months' imprisonment. Huwaida Taha, a columnist and journalist with Al-Jazeera was arrested while she was on her way to Doha from Cairo last January. She was interrogated by prosecutors for filming a documentary about police torture and human rights violations in Egypt. Taha was released on bail pending charges, but was allowed to leave the country. Her two-part documentary Waraa Al-Shams (Behind the sun) -- the chilling euphemism for decades-long torture practices by the Egyptian security apparatus -- was aired on Al-Jazeera last month. Taha who resides in Doha can still appeal the court decision.

Complex debate

THE CONTROVERSY over the construction of a 260,000 square metre business and tourism mega complex reached its peak this week as a UNESCO mission arrived, for the second time, to inspect the project.

Since it was launched in February 2006, work on the Cairo Financial and Tourist Centre (CFTC), which overlooks the Salaheddin Citadel, has generated heated debate between the Ministry of Culture, the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) and archaeologists on one hand, and businessman Mohamed Nosseir, chairman of ALKAN Holding Company (AHC), on the other. The first group claims work on CFTC was undertaken without the permission of the SCA's Permanent Committee for Islamic and Coptic Antiquities (which refused to grant a licence in 2001 and again in 2005) and constituted an encroachment on an archaeological site, violating Antiquities Law 117/1983.

The debate shifted to third gear when Cairo Governor Abdel-Azim Wazir put on hold construction work in July 2006 following an SCA complaint that the complex was a threat to the citadel.

Two weeks later, SCA Secretary- General Zahi Hawass called for a UNESCO inspection mission to resolve the issue. After touring the site, UNESCO said construction should continue because a point of no return had been reached but on condition that the AHC strictly abides by a building code in an attempt at damage control. According to the UNESCO report, the height of the complex should not exceed that of the Citadel's watchtowers; the conglomerate should be broken up into several parts, thus introducing space and variety; and the building should not be made of glass and steel but should be constructed with materials that match the hues of the limestone desert surroundings.

Apparently, the recommendations went unheeded, forcing Hawass to call up a second UNESCO inspection mission.

On Monday, the mission, led by Vèronique Dauge, chief of the Arab unit in UNESCO's World Heritage Centre, embarked on a tour of the site. "The UNESCO decision on the CFTC is the verdict," said Culture Minister Farouk Hosni, adding that the decision was taken by UNESCO without any interference from the ministry or the SCA.

Prison fire

FIRE in Wadi Al-Natroun prison, northwest of Cairo, left five dead and more than 10 injured. Friday's blaze, according to Interior Ministry sources, resulted from an electrical short-circuit in a ceiling fan of one of the wards. Two of the victims died in prison while three others died in hospital.

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