Egypt wages ‘war of starvation’ against its opponents

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A group of people who call themselves anti-coup demonstrators, flash Rabia sign as they march during a protest in the Haram district of Giza, Egypt on January 04, 2015. Anadolu Agency

By: Hisham Abdel Halim

Published Monday, January 5, 2015

The Egyptian government has employed all possible means to fight its opponents. The past year saw a slew of death sentences, thousands of arrests, and the dismissal of student and union leaders. Today, the Ibrahim Mahlab cabinet seems intent to continue the use of a former approach that greatly impacts the opposition – be it the banned Muslim Brotherhood or young revolutionaries – by issuing decisions ordering the seizure of the financial assets of leftist and liberal leaders.

Cairo – It can be called a war of starvation and bankruptcy. Last week, the Ministry of Justice commission, tasked with tracking the financial assets of the Muslim Brotherhood, seized funds and properties belonging to 112 persons affiliated with the Anti-Coup Alliance which supports deposed President Mohammed Morsi. Among those whose assets were frozen are Haytham Mohammadayn and Hisham Fouad, two leaders from the Revolutionary Socialists movement; Amr Ali, general coordinator in the April 6 Youth Movement; and Khaled Sayyed, leader in the Youth for Justice and Freedom movement.

The decision provides for the confiscation of “all real estate property, financial assets, transferred money, bank accounts, deposits, and funds registered in their (members’) names in banks.”

The decision was opposed by many, including former Minister of State for Legal Affairs Mohammed Abdul Majid, Ahmed Mohammed Morsi (Morsi’s son), and preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi. The decision also applied to Secretary-General of the Independence Party Majdi Qarqar, the party’s head Magdi Hussein, and Hussam Khalafallah, member of the political bureau of al-Wasat Party.

This decision is not the first of its kind in Egyptian history. Similar measures were applied during the rule of King Farouk; the late presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat; the ousted President Hosni Mubarak; and under the current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The first set of measures included freezing the assets of 115 Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including Morsi.

According to observers, these measures are “a form of illegal confiscation” per the Egyptian constitution, as they are general confiscations pending conviction of the accused.

Economist Sarhan Suleiman says that the confiscation of people’s private property is “a terrible decision that reflects the image of a totalitarian regime that goes beyond imprisoning and detaining its opponents to eliminate them.” Suleiman adds that “the confiscation of funds will affect foreign investment. The political environment has been tarnished, and there are no guarantees for investor funds since the confiscation affected people from different political currents, not just the Muslim Brotherhood.” Suleiman said that the move will likely result in businesspeople leaving the country and liquidating their businesses.

In related news, questions have been raised in the revolutionary circles regarding the fate of famous businessman Ahmed Ezz, who is accused of involvement in the iron monopoly deal, especially since the Court of Cassation reduced his fine from 100 million pounds to 10 million although he was found guilty in the case. Haytham Mohammadayn, whose assets were confiscated and is not a Muslim Brotherhood member, commented on the two incidents: “The issue exceeds the harassment of the revolutionaries. The confiscation of property will destroy the lives of entire families.”

Mohammadayn rejects the allegations that the opposition members “have transformed from socialists and liberals to leaders in the Muslim Brotherhood and the Anti-Coup Alliance.” Amr Ali (an April 6 Youth Movement member who was impacted by the decision) believes that “the counter-revolution regime is taking revenge from the January 25 revolutionaries and seeks to distort their image.” Amr believes that the authorities were displeased by “the movement’s initiative to unite the revolutionary forces ahead of the fourth anniversary of the January 25 Revolution.” He noted that the initiative, which caused a lot of controversy, still stands.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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