Egypt opens probe into Shafik’s role in land sales to Mubarak sons


McClatchy Newspapers

Losing presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik flew to the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, hours after the country’s top prosecutor ordered an investigation into allegations that he’d wasted public funds.

Announcement of the probe was one of several actions Tuesday that served as reminders that Egypt’s political battles were hardly settled by the announcement Sunday that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi had won Egypt’s first democratic presidential election. Morsi is scheduled to be sworn in on Saturday.

Egypt’s administrative court set aside a Justice Ministry declaration issued June 13 that gave the country’s military the right to detain civilians, a step some said was the equivalent of reinstituting the country’s hated emergency law. The ruling came in response to a challenge from several prominent lawyers, including the Brotherhood’s Abdel Monem Abdel Maksod, who charged that the Justice Ministry decree had the effect of “militarizing civil life, violating the rights of citizens and the independence of judiciary, and a restoration of the emergency state without a law passed to restore it.”

The court, however, delayed action on three other issues that were part of a series of moves ahead of the June 16-17 presidential election that some analysts described as a coup attempt by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has ruled Egypt since Hosni Mubarak was forced from the presidency 16 months ago.

In the first, the court delayed until July 7 a decision on the military council’s dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Parliament. It delayed until July 10 a ruling on the validity of the council’s amendment of the constitution to severely restrict the powers of the president and give it the final say over a new constitution.

The court delayed until Sept. 1 discussion of the council’s dissolution of the constituent assembly, which was charged with writing a new constitution. If the assembly is dissolved, the military council, according to the constitutional addendum, has the right to appoint an alternative to draft the constitution.

The probe into Shafik, who was Mubarak’s last prime minister, was in response to a complaint filed by Essam Sultan, a prominent lawyer and a member of the now-dissolved Parliament. In the complaint, Sultan accused Shafik of facilitating the sale of state lands for only 12.5 percent of their market value to Alaa and Gamal Mubarak, Hosni Mubarak’s sons. The complaint also named Hosni Mubarak as a defendant.

Shafik’s son-in-law, Ahmed el Hawashi, denied that there was anything unusual about Shafik’s travel. “He is on a two-day vacation in Abu Dhabi, after which he will head to Saudi Arabia to perform omrah and then return to Cairo,” Hawashi told the independent Seventh Day newspaper. Omrah is a Muslim rite that involves traveling to Mecca. Shafik’s presidential campaign confirmed that he would soon return to Cairo.

But news of the probe immediately sparked questions about why Shafik had been allowed to leave the country. “Investigative authorities should have taken all legal measures with Shafik including banning him from traveling,” the Judges for Egypt Movement, an independent organization of judges and former judges, said in a statement.

Sabry is a McClatchy special correspondent.

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