Al-Ahram Weekly Online   5 - 11 April 2012
Issue No. 1092
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Plumbing the depths

Military pardons allow Khairat El-Shater's presidential bid, claims the Brotherhood's lawyer. Mona El-Nahhas delves into murky legal waters

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From top: El-Shater during his trial; protesters raise banners against the MB; El-Katatni during a meeting with McCain

The Muslim Brotherhood's selection last week of its deputy supreme guide Khairat El-Shater to stand as the group's candidate in the presidential elections raises a number of questions over the legality of his candidacy.

Immediately following his selection El-Shater resigned his post within the group. The following day Brotherhood lawyer Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maqsoud answered questions from the press, denying there were any legal obstacles to El-Shater standing. It is an opinion with which many legal experts beg to differ.

El-Shater has several criminal convictions. The most recent dates to 2007 when he received a seven-year jail sentence from a military court that found him guilty of money laundering. He was released from prison in March last year, before completing his sentence, on health grounds.

El-Shater's convictions legally bar him from exercising his political rights, including the right to stand in elections, in the absence of a court rehabilitation order stating that he is eligible. Such orders can generally be issued to a petitioner only if six years have passed since the completion of any sentence.

El-Shater has been issued a rehabilitation ruling from the higher military court for a five-year jail term he began in 1995. But, as lawyer Essam El-Islamboli told Al-Ahram Weekly, the rehabilitation order does not cover his most recent guilty verdict. That will require a separate judgement.

Recent leaks to the press to the effect that El-Shater received a pardon from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) three weeks ago following a meeting between SCAF and Mohamed Mursi, leader of the Freedom and Justice Party, that El-Shater himself attended, does not alter the situation, argues El-Islamboli.

"A pardon effects only the sentence, not any other consequences of the guilty verdict."

Lawyer Alaa Abdel-Moneim insists that, by virtue of article 56 of the current constitutional declaration, SCAF's pardon is equivalent to a rehabilitation ruling. A general pardon, he argues, negates not only the original penalty but any complementary penalties, including the ban from exercising political rights. Other legal experts concur that this is a possibility but point out that for it to be the case the pardon must state explicitly that all complementary penalties have been dropped.

The situation was rendered even murkier on Monday when the Brotherhood's Abdel-Maqsoud told reporters that El-Shater had received no pardon for his 2007 conviction. Instead, says Abdel-Maqsoud, El-Shater petitioned the military prosecutor-general to reconsider the case and in response an annulment ruling was issued.

"Why was no one informed of this ruling?" asks El-Islamboli. "If he received such a ruling from the military prosecutor, why was it kept secret?"

El-Shater is expected to submit his nomination papers today after receiving the endorsement of MPs from the Brotherhood's political wing.

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