Al-Ahram Weekly Online   20 - 26 November 2008
Issue No. 923
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875


Coverage banned

MESMERISED in recent weeks by the trial of billionaire business tycoon Hisham Talaat Mustafa, the public is to be deprived of its diet of scandalous insights into the life of the super rich as the court bans further media coverage of the case.

Mustafa is charged with hiring former State Security officer Mohsen El-Sukkari to kill Lebanese pop singer Suzanne Tamim. She was murdered on 28 July in an exclusive residential compound in Dubai. El-Sukkari alleges Mustafa paid him $2 million for the contract killing. The billionaire property developer, a member of the Shura Council, was arrested on 2 September following the lifting of his parliamentary immunity.

The trial opened on 18 October at Cairo's Bab Al-Khalq criminal court, then resumed on Sunday 16 November Judge Mohamedi Qunsua ordered the ban on Monday. Hearings are scheduled every day this week.

Press Syndicate Chairman Makram Mohamed Ahmed has requested the justice minister reconsider the ban for the sake of transparency. The court has argued that the massive reporting surrounding the case amounts to trial by the media.

Jail for harassment

THE CRIMINAL Court sentenced a teenager to one year in jail for sexually assaulting two women in Cairo. At least 100 men were involved in the incident. They cornered a number of women in Mohandessin, an affluent Cairo neighbourhood, and tore off their clothes during the Eid Al-Fitr holiday.

Police forces were called in and later arrested 38 men while the rest fled the scene. It is reported that 30 have been released for "lack of evidence" while two men, caught red-handed, remain in detention. The court has postponed the case of the second defendant until 20 December.

Police forces have been seeking women who fled the scene in fear in order to take statements. Three of the victims were taken into custody for questioning while one of the three witnesses, who wears the niqab (the full face veil), says that the attackers ripped off her head cover as they tried to grope the victims' bodies.

The attackers range between 15 and 22 years.

Convictions for sexual assault are relatively rare in Egypt, though in October a man was sentenced to three years in jail after being found guilty of similar charges.

Organs for sale

ILLEGAL kidney transplants have been taking place at the Tiba hospital in the Agouza district of Cairo. Saad El-Maghrabi, head of the Health Ministry's Central Administration for Non- Governmental Organisations and Licences, says the hospital has undertaken three operations, involving kidney transplants for two Saudi women and one man.

Laila El-Banna, who owns the hospital, denies any knowledge of the operations. She leases out the building for LE25,000 a month.

Staff at the four-storey hospital are reported to have fled the building when police raided, leaving the three patients and a single doctor, Azza El-Shammaa, who undertook the transplant operations. One of the two female Saudis died after being abandoned without care in the post-operative resuscitation unit. The prosecutor-general has summoned all doctors involved in the incident for investigation. El-Maghrabi pointed out that this was not the first time such raids have happened, and urged the government to speed up passage of the draft organ transplant law currently with the People's Assembly.

"The doctors who fled will face prosecution for conducting illegal operations and for leaving their patients without any medical care," says El-Maghrabi.

Trial postponed

THE ALEXANDRIA Criminal Court on 10 November adjourned the trial of the 23-year- old mathematics teacher Haitham Nabil Abdel-Hamid -- accused of unlawfully killing an 11- year-old pupil, Islam Badr, by kicking him in the stomach -- in order to examine the defence lawyer's demands.

The defence lawyer has requested testimony from Minister of Education Yosri El-Gamal and his deputy Gamal Moawad. He has also requested that Badr's school principle and deputy, as well as his teachers and colleagues, be present to testify in court. Ahmed Sadek, who conducted the first medical exam on Badr in Al-Quds medical centre, and the receptionist at Sharq Al-Madina hospital, where Badr was next taken, are also on the defence lawyer's list of witnesses.

The judge adjourned the trial before the prosecution had presented its case.

The tragic story made headlines last month and caused a public outcry against corporal punishment in schools.

Treasure islands

CAIRO'S Administrative Court ruled on Saturday in favour of the residents of Al-Qorsaya island in Giza who had been threatened with eviction from their homes. The court verdict quashes a prime ministerial decree which would have removed 5,000 inhabitants from their homes on island. Many of the families concerned have lived on the island for generations.

Last year bulldozers, escorted by army personnel, arrived on Al-Qorsaya amid rumours that the island was to be developed into a tourist complex. The islanders responded by launching a media campaign. Residents claimed that as farmers and fishermen they would be unable to sustain their way of life away from the island.

Mohamed Abdel-Azim, a lawyer with the Egyptian Centre for Housing Rights, says that while he welcomes the verdict it does not represent an end to the problem. The island's status as a nature reserve prohibits the pursuit of commercial or industrial activities.

"Al-Qorsaya is one example among many of land the government is trying to get its hands on. Dahab, the island next to Al-Qorsaya, is currently involved in a similar battle," says Abdel-Azim. "While the Administrative Court decision stops the implementation of the prime ministerial decree it doesn't establish the residents' right to the land they inhabit. Nor does it oblige the government to provide services for them."

Compiled by Reem Leila

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