Monday,18 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1209, (14 - 20 August 2014)
Monday,18 December, 2017
Issue 1209, (14 - 20 August 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Conspiring without evidence

The revolution of 25 January had nothing to do with the failures of the Mubarak regime. It was all the CIA’s doing, claims Mubarak’s interior minister. Gamal Essam El-Din reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The trial of former president Hosni Mubarak, his two sons Alaa and Gamal, businessman Hussein Salem, former interior minister Habib Al-Adli, and six of Adli’s assistants took a dramatic turn when presiding Judge Mahmoud Kamel Al-Rashidi allowed the accused to take the floor and defend themselves.

Mubarak, whose health has prevented him from attending the trial’s final sessions since they opened on 2 August, was scheduled to address the court yesterday. Mubarak faces corruption charges and complicity in the killing of peaceful protestors opposed to his rule in January 2011. Mubarak’s sons asked Al-Rashidi to allow their father to address the court from hospital, arguing that Mubarak was too frail to attend court in person.

Al-Rashidi has allowed the defendants as much time as they like to defend themselves. First to take the floor were Adli and his senior assistants.

Mubarak’s minister of interior appeared to take his cue from the 2 August assertion by Farid Al-Deeb, his former boss’s defence lawyer, that “the term revolution cannot be applied to what took place on January 2011 because it was masterminded by foreign elements.

“The events of 25 January cannot be described as [a] revolution,” Al-Deeb claimed, “because they were the result of a foreign conspiracy.”

Al-Deeb cited statements by the late Omar Suleiman, Mubarak’s long-time chief of intelligence, as evidence for his assertion. In earlier testimony Suleiman claimed that since 2005 Washington had provided money to youth groups like the 6th of April Movement, Kifaya and We are all Khaled Saeed“as part of its greater Middle East project devised after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington in September 2001.”

It was a line El-Adli was happy to take up. On 9 August he told the court the American plan was to approach leaders in the Middle East with a democratic model and offer financial incentives for its implementation. “If the leaders refused,” said Al-Adli, “the US would tarnish their image by accusing them of being dictators.”

Washington would then seek to mobilise local youth movements, training them in how to cause trouble for the ruling regimes by raising concerns about democracy and human rights.

The US, claimed El-Adli, trained members of youth opposition groups like the 6th April, Kefaya and the Muslim Brotherhood in Qatar and other Arab countries, hoping to use them if necessary to undermine the Mubarak regime. “The US chose Egypt as the starting point of its strategy to change the Middle East. The result is what we see happening in Syria, Libya, Iraq and Yemen, what the west calls the Arab Spring.”

El-Adli expressed regrets that as minister of the interior he had cooperated closely with the CIA and other Arab and Western intelligence agencies. “In August, 2001 — a month before the terrorist attacks in Washington and New York — I gave the CIA information we had received from an Al-Qaida source that an attack on the US was being planned. We thought the CIA and other intelligence agencies shared our belief that it was essential to stem the tide of Islamist terrorism. Now we know they were conspiring to spread chaos throughout the Middle East and help Islamist extremists like the Muslim Brotherhood reach power in Egypt.”

Al-Adli denied that he was part of the so-called inheritance project — Hosni Mubarak’s attempt to groom his younger son Gamal to take over as president. According to Al-Adli, Mubarak told him in a phone call in December 2010 that “the inheritance project was a myth and he, rather than Gamal, intended to run for president in 2011.”

 On 1 February 2011 Mubarak gave a televised speech in which he said he had never intended to stand for another presidential term. “I say it sincerely, and without regard for the current situation. I did not intend to run for a new presidential term. I have spent enough of my life serving Egypt and its people,” he said. Ten days later he would be forced from office.

Hassan Abdel-Rahman, head of Mubarak’s feared state security investigation apparatus, also told the court that CIA agents spearheaded opposition to the Mubarak regime. He accused Wael Ghoneim, the activist behind the “We are all Khaled Saeed” webpage, of being an American agent.

“While he was studying at Cairo University’s Faculty of Engineering Ghoneim was recruited by the Muslim Brotherhood,” claimed Abdel-Rahman. “He left for the US after his graduation and married an American woman but continued to maintain his Brotherhood contacts. He later helped set up the Ikhwan online website.”

Ghoneim, according to Abdel-Rahman, was arrested on 27 January 2011 while meeting with a CIA agent at a Zamalek cafe. “Other elements from the US Embassy in Cairo were also at the meeting, to discuss whether or not the Muslim Brotherhood would be able to mobilise the masses on 28 January, the Friday of Anger,” he said.

Al-Adli and Abdel-Rahman both accused the 6th April and other revolutionary movements of storming the headquarters of the State Security Apparatus in Nasr City in March in order to steal files that might expose their connections with the CIA and other foreign intelligence agencies.

Adli and his aides used the judge’s decision to allow them to address the court to deny they had any hand in killing peaceful protesters. They claim that the murders were orchestrated by Hamas and the Lebanese Shia group Hizbollah. In collaboration with Qatari intelligence, they contend, Hamas and Hizbollah infiltrated Egypt’s borders to kill protesters in Tahrir Square and storm Egyptian prisons.

Al-Ahram political analyst Hassan Abu Taleb believes that even in the absence of any substantive evidence, the claims by Al-Adli, Al-Deeb and Abel-Rahman about an American conspiracy will have struck a chord with many members of the public. “There is no concrete evidence showing the CIA played a direct role in mobilising the revolution against Mubarak, but statements issued by American officials and the behavior of the Obama administration did suggest the US was keen to get rid of Mubarak and saw the Muslim Brotherhood as a credible alternative to his regime,” argues Abu Taleb.

Mostafa Bakri, journalist, publisher, and author of a book on Mubarak’s final days in office, says the former president faced intense pressure from the Americans to resign. “Once this happened the Americans moved quickly to help the Muslim Brotherhood reach office,” claims Bakri. He singles out the former US ambassador to Egypt, Ann Patterson, as the architect of US-Brotherhood ties.

“Patterson held many secret meetings with leading Brotherhood officials and also tried to save Morsi from being removed from office last year,” insists Bakri.

Human rights activists say the defence opted for by leading security officials — that they were the victims of a foreign conspiracy — was predictable. What it doesn’t explain, points out Hafez Abu Siida, chairman of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR), is why Egyptians turned out in their millions to protest against Mubarak in 2011.

“It was expected,” said Abu Siida, “that Al-Adli would take the floor not to expose the brutal practices of his police officers, the Mubarak regime’s corrupt crony capitalism, or explain the spread of public anger in the last three years of Mubarak’s rule. Instead he and his senior officials resorted to a conspiracy theory in an attempt to wash their hands of all the crimes they committed under the Mubarak’s rule.

“Al-Adli’s role was to use the brutal arsenal at his disposal to contain the anger that was expected to sweep the country when Mubarak moved to catapult his son to power,” continued Abu Siida. “The inheritance project was a reality, not the myth El-Adli claims. It began in 2005, when Mubarak first promoted Gamal within the ruling National Democratic Party.”

“Politicians always resort to conspiracy theories to deny their crimes,” says human rights activist Mohamed Zarie. “Al-Adi is simply conforming to type. Instead of conceding that the brutal practices he oversaw, coupled with the political and economic corruption of the Mubarak regime, led to the uprising, he is seeking to blame America and the CIA for inciting the masses and [accusing] democracy activists of being foreign agents.”

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