In what is widely hoped to be the first in a series of similar rulings against former regime officials, former finance minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali has been sentenced by an Egyptian court to 30 years in a maximum-security prison, and a LE70 million fine for “squandering and abusing public funds.” Front page reports from Sunday’s state-owned and independent papers confirm the depths of the former finance minister’s corruption, unanimously claiming that he gave away 96 of the 102 luxury cars allocated to the ministry, keeping the remaining six for himself.
According to Al-Ahram, Ghali also redirected his ministry’s funds and manpower to his personal campaign in the 2010 parliamentary elections, going as far as moving the ministry’s “computers, printers and employees” to his campaign headquarters. Al-Ahram, along with independent dailies Al-Wafd and Al-Shorouk all point to this last allegation as the reason why Ghali’s promotional material for his campaign was so “fancy.”
Both Ghali and his wife managed to narrowly avoid a travel ban by fleeing the country on the morning of former president Hosni Mubarak’s resignation. They are currently believed to be in Beirut.
Much front page space is also given to Mohamed Sabah Saeed Nasr, the 38-year-old bus driver whose friends and family members claim was “tortured to death” by police officers on Thursday. Previous reports claimed that Saeed had been arrested along with several other drivers after obstructing traffic and refusing to follow police officers’ orders to clear the street. Al-Shorouk reports that “Saeed’s murder reignited tensions between police and civilians, culminating in Friday afternoon’s attempted raid of the Azbakeya police station” where Saeed is said to have died.
Both Al-Shorouk and Al-Dostour’s reports feature identical eyewitness accounts from other drivers who were present at the scene, and claim that the altercation broke out when a police officer demanded a bribe from Saeed in order to allow his passengers to disembark. Saeed refused, and, after a brief fistfight with the officer, “marched on foot into the nearest police station.” Saeed’s colleagues claim he remained in the station for two hours, where he was “beaten, electrocuted, and tortured to death.”
According to Al-Shorouk, the officers involved offered an alternate version of the incident, claiming that Saeed had refused to follow either their orders or traffic laws, and that his belligerence infuriated the civilians on the street, who responded by dragging him out of his vehicle and beating him “mercilessly.”
Saeed’s family, meanwhile, anxiously awaits the results of the autopsy ordered on Saturday by the general attorney. Speaking to Al-Shorouk, Saeed’s father said that he had found out about his son’s death 24 hours after it had happened, and that by the time he had located the body at the morgue, police officers had “already secured a burial permit and a coroner’s report attributing the death to head trauma and severe wounds.” Saeed’s family refused to accept the body, demanding an official autopsy to determine the cause of death with greater accuracy.
Al-Wafd reports on Mohamed Ibrahim Abdel Moneim, AKA Mohamed al-Sunni, the former police lieutenant who was sentenced by an Egyptian court on Saturday to life in prison for murdering two protesters on 28 January, using his own personal handgun. Sunni was already sentenced to death by another court for the murder of 18 protesters, and the wounding of 15 others.
Meanwhile, in what Al-Shorouk calls a “break from tradition,” a panel of Egyptian businessmen have “welcomed and even requested higher taxes on their profits,” in the hopes that this added income will help stabilize the economy. During a meeting held at the Ministry of Finance on Saturday to discuss the 2011-2012 budget, Moharram Helal, president of the 10th of Ramadan board of investors, suggested that a 25% tax be implemented on all profits, while Naguib Sawiris, acting president of the Egyptian German Chamber of Industry and Trade, called for the cancellation of previous tax exemptions on profits made by Egyptian companies operating abroad, and other offshore enterprises. For his part, head of the Union of Egyptian Industries Galal al-Zorba stated, “the private sector will not stand in the way of Egypt’s best interest.”
For its lead story, state-owned Al-Ahram focuses on none of the above, offering instead a report on “judges threatening to boycott elections,” according to its urgent, and red, headline. Convening in Zagazig, a group of judges from “several different governorates,” announced their plans to “boycott the upcoming elections if judicial authorities are not guaranteed complete and total independence.” The announcement comes after the group’s rejection of the recent measures taken against three judges who made public statements which the Supreme Council of Armed Forces took as “insults.” As a result, several judges have been calling for public apologies from the Minister of Judges, as well as the SCAF.
Al-Ahram also reports on the crowds of Palestinians crossing into Egypt “on foot” after ongoing renovations prevented vehicles from passing through the Rafah border crossing. Despite the SCAF’s announcement last week that it would be opened “permanently,” the Rafah crossing was closed on Saturday, allegedly due to the aforementioned renovations. Al-Ahram reports that while this was explained to the Palestinians attempting to cross, along with the possibility of crossing on foot, many chose to stay on their buses, claiming that the Egyptian authorities were refusing to grant them entry.