Friday,22 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1392, (3 - 9 May 2018)
Friday,22 February, 2019
Issue 1392, (3 - 9 May 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Cracking down on terrorist funds

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi ratifies laws regulating the seizure of Muslim Brotherhood assets, reports Gamal Essam El-Din


Cracking down on terrorist funds
Cracking down on terrorist funds

Laws authorising the sequestration of assets belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood and other affiliated movements were ratified by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi on 22 and 25 April. Under the first — the Law Regulating the Procedures of Sequestrating, Managing, and Disposing of the Assets of Terror Organisations and Terrorists — a judicial committee will be entrusted with implementing court rulings on the sequestration of assets linked to terrorist organisations.

The second law established a Higher Council on Combating Extremism and Terrorism and obliges all public and private institutions to cooperate in a new national strategy aimed to uproot terrorism and block its funding.

Refaat Al-Sayed, a former head of Cairo Criminal Court, told Al-Ahram newspaper that the law closes a legal loophole that has hampered the sequestration of the assets of terrorist organisations. In 2013 a technical committee affiliated with the Prosecutor-General’s Office was established by cabinet decree and given responsibility for sequestrating the assets of terrorist groups, said Al-Sayed. “But following a number of administrative court rulings it became clear the basis of the committee’s competence needed to be changed from a cabinet decree to a judicial committee.”

Gamal Al-Sherif, deputy head of parliament’s Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee, told Al-Ahram Weekly that President Al-Sisi’s ratification of the new law on sequestrating terrorist funds five days after it was approved by MPs shows the urgency with which ending terrorist funding is viewed.

“It opens a new front in the battle with the Muslim Brotherhood. There is a wealth of well-documented information showing the froup commands substantial resources held in Egyptian and foreign banks,” says Al-Sherif.

“The group also receives millions of dollars from Qatar and Turkey to maintain operations aimed at destabilising Egypt. It is important, legally and constitutionally, to stem the flow of funds via a judicial rather than government-affiliated technical committee.”

Al-Sherif added the Higher Council for Judges will be entrusted with choosing members of the judicial committee.

Al-Sayed explained the way the new legislation will work. When the prosecutor-general wants the assets of a certain group to be sequestrated it will refer the decision to the relevant criminal or cassation court. “If the prosecutor-general’s request is endorsed by the court it will be referred to the judicial committee that will then be in charge of implementing it,” seizing any assets and managing and disposing of them according to the Criminal Procedures Law.

Assets could include real estate, land, cooperative societies, supermarkets, department stores, grocery stores and restaurants, said Al-Sayed.

The law also covers the assets of defendants found guilty of terrorist activity. “Once convicted of terrorist charges the Judicial Committee will be able to sequestrate the assets of any defendant,” says Al-Sayed.

In recent days the Court of Cassation has ruled that dozens of high-profile Muslim Brotherhood figures be designated as terrorists. They include Abdullah Shehata, former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi’s economic advisor, and leading Brotherhood figures Mohamed Qadri Abdel-Fattah, Hussein Abdel-Ghani, Said Kamal Metwalli and Abul-Haggag Ibrahim. All have been convicted of possessing fire weapons and publishing leaflets inciting violence.

The same court is expected to rule on 22 May that the Muslim Brotherhood’s supreme guide Mohamed Badie should join the list of figures designated as terrorists. The court’s panel of advisors recommended in a report last week that appeals filed by Badie and other leading Brotherhood figures be rejected.

Cairo Criminal Court has already ordered the sequestration of the personal assets of Badie and other members of the Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau after they were found guilty of forming an operation room to coordinate attacks against military and civilian targets in the summer of 2013.

“These groups show no mercy in targeting civilians and killing policemen and military personnel and receiving huge amounts of cash to carry out their terrorist activities. It is important to stand up to these organisations not just on the level of security but also through taking the legal and legislative measures necessary to dry up their sources of funding,” says Al-Sherif.

Former Russian ambassador to Qatar Vladimir Titorenko disclosed in an interview with the Russian news channel RT last week that Egyptian-Qatari religious cleric Youssef Al-Qaradawi urged the emir of Qatar to continue transferring money to Muslim Brotherhood activists in Egypt so that they could fund operations against the regime. The Russian ambassador also accused Qatar of funding Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups in Syria and Libya.

Hafez Abu Seada, head of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR) and a member of the National Council for Human Rights, said the formation of a wholly Judicial Committee in charge of confiscating terrorist funds was an important legislative step.

“The new legislation also addresses who can designate an organisation or individual as terrorist,” points out Abu Seada. Under the 2013 cabinet decree it was the government and security apparatuses which had the last say. “This was unconstitutional because the national charter clearly states that money and assets can be confiscated only after a final judicial ruling.”

Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal told MPs during the debate on the law on 17 April that the laws authorising the seizure of assets complement other legislation targeting terrorist activities.

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