A ruling NDP MP was sentenced to two years in prison after he was found guilty of smuggling mobile phones into the country, reports Gamal Essam El-Din
On 21 March, after a perfunctory hearing by the economic court, Yasser Salah, a member of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) for north Cairo's district of Shorabiya, was sentenced to two years in prison and fined LE50,000. Salah was found guilty of smuggling 550 mobile phones from Dubai into Egypt after being caught "red-handed" on 16 March at Cairo airport. Salah reportedly then offered to pay LE150,000 in custom duties in return for officials not bringing charges.
Salah, 36, said he was carrying the phones to offer as presents to his constituents ahead of parliamentary elections. Minister of Finance Youssef Boutros Ghali refused the offer of import duties and insisted Salah be referred to trial.
Parliament speaker Fathi Sorour told MPs on Saturday that because Salah was caught red-handed, he was interrogated instantly without awaiting his immunity to be stripped. On Saturday, his immunity was lifted -- for the second time. Two months ago, Salah was accused of gambling -- which is illegal for Egyptians -- in the casino of a five-star hotel in Cairo. He was referred to trial before the criminal court after he was stripped of his immunity by parliament.
On the same day the People's Assembly agreed that Ahmed Shobeir, a former goalkeeper of the Egyptian national team and an NDP MP, testify before prosecution officials. Shobeir is accused of slandering Mortada Mansour, a well-known lawyer and the former head of Zamalek sporting club, during a television programme.
Also on Saturday, the People's Assembly accepted the resignation from the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee of independent MP Talaat El-Sadat, a cousin of late president Anwar El-Sadat.
El-Sadat had accused the committee, dominated by NDP members, of refusing to listen to his defence against charges of soliciting a LE250,000 bribe from a businessman seeking to obtain a tourist transport licence and opting instead to recommend the assembly strip him of parliamentary immunity. El-Sadat claims state security police fabricated the case against him, aiming to smear his reputation ahead of the forthcoming parliamentary elections.
At the same time the assembly refused on Saturday to strip NDP MP Abdel-Rehim El-Ghoul, chairman of parliament's Agriculture Committee, of immunity or even allow him to testify before prosecution authorities. El-Ghoul has been accused by Christian female MP Georgette Qellini of slander after insulting her in a public parliamentary session. Qellini alleges El-Goul shouted at her during a parliamentary session on 17 January, calling her a "criminal and liar".
"These insults caused a lot of harm and damaged my reputation in the eyes of my family and acquaintances," she said, adding that she preferred to take legal action against El-Ghoul rather than exchange insults with him.
In response, El-Ghoul says he has great respect for Qellini and that the word "criminal" was not directed at her but at those who aim to disrupt national unity between Muslims and Copts.
Ahmed Ezz, the NDP's secretary for organisational affairs and chairman of the assembly's Budget Committee, added that, "the NDP has a lot of respect for Qellini and it is better that she and El-Ghoul reach a reconciliation rather than taking their problems to the court."
In response, opposition and independent MPs accused the NDP of double standards. "When it comes to independents and opposition MPs, the NDP shows no hesitation in lifting immunity but when it comes to its own MPs the NDP abstains," said El-Sadat.
Parliament speaker Sorour intervened, explaining that "it is better to reach a friendly reconciliation between MPs who exchange insults but when it comes to criminal charges the assembly has no option but to strip MPs of immunity".