Egypt investigates New York Times report on alleged Jerusalem intelligence leak

Egypt’s Prosecutor General Nabil Sadiq ordered an investigation into the New York Times report on Egypt claiming that Egyptian leaders accepted the decision by US President Donald Trump to proclaim Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and subsequently sought to influence public opinion into supporting the move using talkshow hosts.

The Supreme State Security Prosecution, under the supervision of Khaled Diaa, initiated the investigation, after Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS) denied the veracity of the report on Saturday, saying it contained news that would harm security and public peace and interest.

The report, published on Saturday 6 January, entitled ‘Tapes Reveal Egyptian Leaders’ Tacit Acceptance of Jerusalem Move’, and written by David Kirkpatrick – who is the Times’ international correspondent, based in London – claimed to have obtained four audio recordings of an Egyptian intelligence officer talking to the hosts of several talkshows in Egypt.

The article alleged that intelligence officer, Ashraf al-Kholi, told the hosts that they mustn’t condemn the decision, but instead should persuade their viewers to accept it.

The SIS said in a statement that the Times’ article claims that Kholi is an officer with the Egyptian General Intelligence without presenting its readers with the slightest evidence of the truth of this information, or even evidence that this person exists.

It added that Mofid Fawzy, one of the Times’ named ‘talkshow hosts’, is a journalist who stopped presenting television shows years ago.

The SIS also revealed that Saeed Hassaseen, another named host, ended his talkshow weeks before the Jerusalem move, and does not currently present any show.

The SIS reported that Hassaseen denied receiving a call on Jerusalem, and affirmed that he does not know anyone named Ashraf al-Kholi.

Meanwhile, another accused ‘host’ named in the article is prominent movie star, Yousra.

Yousra, however, has no relation whatsoever to presenting television talkshows, working instead in the movie industry as an actress, a fact Kirkpatrick should have been aware of, given his lengthily stay in Egypt, added the SIS statement.

It said that Yousra also denied knowing anyone by the name Ashraf al-Kholi, and denied discussing the issue of Jerusalem with anyone. She emphasized that she has not expressed views on political issues to any media outlet, as well as revealing that she was not present in Egypt during the period specified in the article.

She further announced that she will be seeking legal action against the New York Times for bringing her name into false allegations, as it is damaging to her career and reputation as an Arab actress.

Azmi Megahed, the fourth name in the Times report, also denied knowing a man by the name of Ashraf al-Kholi.

It is inappropriate for The New York Times, a reputable and influential newspaper, to publish such allegations, SIS said.

Egypt’s positions on international issues are not derived from alleged leaks from anonymous sources, the SIS statement said. It added that Egypt’s positions are conveyed by the President, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and in official state statements.

All of the entities in charge have expressed, in word and deed, their absolute position on Jerusalem in the United Nations and other international organizations.

They have expressed a disregard for US threats at the United Nation, threatening to cut aid to recipients, including Egypt, over their Jerusalem vote at the UN, the statement added.

Edited translation from MENA

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