Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1299, (9 - 15 June 2016)
Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Issue 1299, (9 - 15 June 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Two high-profile trials

Ahmed Morsy explores the political implications of referring Press Syndicate chairman Yehia Qallash and former head of the Central Auditing agency Hisham Geneina to trial

Al-Ahram Weekly

Two high-profile trials have been stirring controversy. In the first case hearings against the head of the Press Syndicate Yehia Qallash and two senior board members Khaled Al-Balshi and Gamal Abdel-Rehim, have now been postponed to 18 June to allow defence lawyers to review case documents.

The three were summoned by the prosecution authorities on 29 May and questioned for over 12 hours. They face charges of harbouring fugitives and propagating false news, stemming from the arrest of two journalists from inside the syndicate’s headquarters in May. The three deny the charges. They were referred to “urgent” trial before Qasr Al-Nil Misdemeanours Court and released a day after the summons on LE10,000 bail each.  Though the three refused to pay bail it was eventually posted by their lawyer.

The second case involves Hisham Geneina, former head of the Central Auditing Authority (CAA). State Security Prosecution referred Geneina to trial last Thursday on charges of “disseminating false news” three months after President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi dismissed him from his post.

The former chief auditor was summoned for interrogation early on Thursday and then remanded into custody pending investigations. Like the three leaders of the Press Syndicate Geneina refused to pay the LE10,000 bail that had been set and spent the night in a police station. “If I had agreed to paying bail it would have lent credence to a malicious investigation and the false accusations that have been fabricated against me,” Geneina said while in detention.

“No other CAA head has been harassed for doing his constitutional duty which is to protect public money and the institutions of law and order.” 

Geneina’s daughter was due to be engaged the day after his detention and the family paid bail on his behalf to spare his daughter’s grief, according to Geneina’s lawyer Ali Taha.

Geneina’s trial opened on Tuesday only to be adjourned until 21 June when his lawyers asked for more time to study the case.

In December last year, while Geneina was still head of the CAA , he was quoted  by Al-Youm Al-Sabei as saying in an interview that corruption had cost Egypt LE600 billion in 2015. Geneina later said that he had been misquoted and the figure covered four years, a claim supported by a second interview he gave with another newspaper. Following his dismissal in March State Security Prosecution issued a statement claiming Geneina’s remarks were inaccurate and that he would be interrogated.

Mustafa Kamel Al-Sayed, professor of politic science at Cairo University, argues that the trials must be viewed against the backdrop of comments made by Al-Sisi demanding unity.

“President Al-Sisi sees unity as essential for accelerating development and stability,” Al-Sayed told Al-Ahram Weekly. “He believes anyone who deviates from this line endangers national security and political stability.”

“To be more precise, he thinks differences of opinion undermine national stability. Al-Sisi once said that ‘for Egypt to achieve democracy it will require another 20 to 25 years’. He also said that ‘the constitution was drafted with good intentions, but the country cannot be run on good intentions’.” Al-Sayed was referring to Al-Sisi’s statement in an interview with French magazine Jeune Afrique last February and comments made during a speech in September.

“Yet differences are inevitable given human nature. Politics revolve around difference and anyone who assumes a political role must accept this because no one is in possession of the absolute truth.” 

Political commentator Hassan Nafaa believes the least that could be said about the two cases is that “they are arbitrary and unfair”. 

“Both cases project an image of the regime as one that takes arbitrary action against whoever disagrees with it ideologically or politically,” Nafaa told the Weekly.

Nafaa argued that the regime is “sliding into a form of absolute despotism”.

 “After the detention of the president of the CAA and the arrest of the Press Syndicate’s head and board members who will dare to speak?” asks lawyer and human rights activist Negad Al-Borai.  Al-Borai was himself called for questioning for a sixth time on Sunday after he drafted an anti-torture bill with two judges.

“In one week, former chief auditor and press syndicate head summoned by prosecution. Did we become the enemies of ourselves or are we still waiting for whoever conspires against us?” Mohamed Al-Baradie, former vice-president and Nobel peace laureate, tweeted.

 “You may succeed in imprisoning Geneina for his statements over corruption but the rampant corruption that exists will daily prove the truth of Geneina’s words,” predicted journalist and writer Suleiman Al-Hakim.

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