Thursday’s papers: ‘The beard of strife’ and predictions of Mubarak’s fate

Former President Hosni Mubarak's trial dominates headlines in the local press, with highlights of Wednesday's hearing leading the front pages of both state-run and independent papers.

“The fate of Mubarak will be decided on 2 June,” leads state flagship Al-Ahram; “Mubarak attempts to escape execution,” writes privately owned Youm7; and “Mubarak recites poetry and Adly gives a sermon,” according to Freedom and Justice, the Muslim Brotherhood's newspaper.

State-owned Al-Ahram reports that Mubarak turned down the chance to address the court after his lawyers' closing statements during the final session, but submitted a legal memorandum to the court, which ends with a poetic line: “My country, even if it was unfair toward me, remains dear. My people, even if they have wronged me, remain dignified.” The paper notes with sarcasm, “The poet swears that he has not ordered the attack on protesters.” Privately owned Al-Tahrir publishes the full text of Mubarak's letter to the court in which he pleads innocence.

Al-Ahram also reports on a nearly two-hour-long speech by former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly, who faces trial alongside Mubarak. Adly claims Egypt was subjected to a plot by Hamas and Hizbullah with the help of inside agents, according to the paper. Freedom and Justice notes the irony of Adly's use of Quranic verses “to beg for the judge's mercy.”

Both Al-Ahram and state-run Al-Gomhurriya highlight the Cairo Criminal Court’s decision to issue a verdict on 2 June, while independent papers anticipate potential rulings. Al-Dostour's front page reads, “Execution expected for Habib al-Adly and Ahmed Ramzy.” Ramzy is former head of the Interior Ministry’s Central Security Forces and one of six senior security officials also on trial. Liberal party paper Al-Wafd runs the headline, “Mubarak on his way to the noose.”

Several papers also report that Judge Ahmed Refaat, who is presiding over the trial, received the People's Assembly recommendation that Mubarak be transferred to Tora prison hospital. Al-Wafd reports that defense lawyer Farid Al-Deeb told the court it is not within the Parliament's prerogative to order the transfer.

Al-Tahrir highlights Deeb's statement that “the Supreme Council of Armed Forces did not take over the affairs of the country based on the will of the people, but was assigned this task by Mubarak.” Deeb's statement comes in the context of his legal objections to the prosecution's case. He argues that Mubarak was not deposed but conceded his position of his own will and that, based on the constitution, he is still president.

Recent controversy over a group of police officers insisting they be allowed to grow their beard in accordance with Islam is also a popular topic. Al-Ahram describes the issue as “the beard strife.” Dar Al-Ifta is reported to have issued an ambivalent fatwa describing beards as a subject of religious debate but calling for police to respect work guidelines and “the norms in state institutions.” Privately owned Al-Dostour writes that Dar Al Ifta “rejects the beard of police officers,” and also covers online debate of the issue.

Al-Wafd dedicates a page to what it describes as “the Islamization of the Interior Ministry,” with a digitally altered photo of a bearded Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim. It reports that 177 bearded officers have allegedly formed a “free officers' coalition for the revival of the Sunnah.” The article cites several leaders of the conservative Jama'a al-Islamiya denouncing the beard ban and arguing for “a gradual Islamization” of the ministry. On the same page, another headline reads, “The Muslim Brotherhood backed the interior minister following the Port Said massacre in exchange for a Brotherhood quota in security bodies.” No mention of the beard controversy appears in the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice paper.

Following up on the issue of strained US-Egypt relations, several papers publish feature stories confirming that the United States has a malicious presence in Egypt.. Al-Wafd dedicates a page to the issue, with headlines reading: “The Americans' state in Egypt” and “CIA and FBI men work in the service of America in Egypt.” Al-Gomhurriya runs a feature story in which former Editor-in-Chief Mahfouz al-Ansary argues that all US entities, including the Obama administration, Congress, media, and civil and financial groups, are engaged in “a massive mobilization to besiege and punish Egypt.” Freedom and Justice runs a summary of a Foreign Policy story with the headline: “Foreign Policy asks Washington to stop funding civil society in Egypt, as it has failed to realize its goals of serving US interests in the Arab region.”

An Al-Tahrir headline reads, “Head of Journalists Syndicate bans revolutionary conference,” in which it reports that Mamdouh al-Waly prevented the second conference of the newly formed Revolution Guidance Council from taking place inside the syndicate building. MP Mohamed Abu Hamed of the Free Egyptians Party is reported as saying that the council aims to unite the largest number of coalitions and movements possible to help their voices reach Parliament. Waly is cited in Al-Dostour saying that his move was not politically motivated, but was a procedural decision as there had been no consensus over the rental of the hall. Al-Tahrir cites an unidentified syndicate source as saying the decision was passed down from the syndicate head without deliberation among members and under pressure from the Muslim Brotherhood.

Two Freedom and Justice columns attack the Revolution Guidance Council; one by Mohamad Abdel Qoddous calls the group’s members “fake revolutionaries” and describes them as members of “the extreme left.” Abdel Qoddous also writes they are led by a member of “the millionaire [Naguib] Sawiris' party” (alluding to Abu Hamed) and denounces their calls for an end to military rule. Another column carries the title “The illusionary Revolution Guidance Council,” under which author Mohamed Gamal Arafa denounces the formation of such an entity, saying that “the revolution's institutions have effectively been formed, spearheaded by the Parliament.” The author argues that the real intention of the council is to launch “a counter-revolution against the electoral victory of the Islamists and their parliamentary majority.”

Egypt’s papers:

Al-Ahram: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt

Al-Akhbar: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size

Al-Gomhurriya: Daily, state-run

Rose al-Youssef: Daily, state-run

Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned

Al-Shorouk: Daily, privately owned

Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party

Youm7: Daily, privately owned

Al-Tahrir: Daily, privately owned

Freedom and Justice: Daily, published by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party

Sawt al-Umma: Weekly, privately owned

Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Nasserist Party

Al-Nour: Official paper of the Salafi Nour Party

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