Thursday’s papers: ‘Lazoghly officer’ affair and a suicidal candidate

While state-owned papers keep their focus on the ongoing “presidential election shenanigans” — according to Al-Akhbar’s front page — independent publications seem more concerned with other issues; namely, the state security agent apprehended by a group of striking workers after allegedly trying to incite a riot outside of Parliament.

The “Lazoghly officer,” as dubbed by Al-Wafd newspaper, referring to the street where the Interior Ministry is located, was not the first attempt by state security officers to subvert the same group of Petrojet Company employees that had been protesting outside of Parliament throughout the previous week. In a report titled “The secrets behind the arrest of the state security infiltrator,” the party paper claims that a few days earlier, MP Kamal Abu Attiya had allowed Petrojet employees into the actual Parliament building, and led them to the door through which house Speaker Saad al-Katatny would enter. The Petrojet employees were reportedly left with instructions to prevent Katatny from attending the session, and thus create a massive disruption, while dealing another blow to the Parliament’s legitimacy.

The next day, the paper reports, Petrojet employees were approached by an individual claiming to be a co-worker, suggesting that they attack the army soldiers stationed around Parliament. When asked for his company number, the man replied that it was 500, and when he was told there was no such number, he attempted to flee. He was caught, beaten and handed over to army soldiers. Al-Wafd’s report includes a photo of the ID card allegedly taken from the man, identifying him as National Security Agency officer Ahmed Salah Eddin.

This is one of several articles appearing as part of a file in Thursday’s issue of Al-Wafd, under the title, “The return of state security.” Collectively, the articles indicate just that, with increasingly familiar examples of former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly’s cronies compulsively “working to subvert the revolution,” as well as an alarming influence — especially among rural government officials — of sympathies with the former Mubarak regime.

Independent daily Al-Shorouk also leads with the Lazoghly officer, reporting that Salah Eddin has been “found innocent by the Interior Ministry,” which has explained the entire incident by suggesting that “the officer was doing his job outside of Parliament when he was targeted by members of certain Islamist factions aiming to smear the image of the police force.” The paper’s sources claim that Salah Eddin himself has since “accused protesters of assaulting him and stealing his personal belongings” — referring to a USB flash drive that was found on him and later revealed to contain “classified military files.”

Despite the disruptions, parliamentary sessions trudged on, raising more questions than answers. The decision to revoke what seemed to be a clear vote to withdraw confidence from Kamal al-Ganzouri’s cabinet continues to cause internal controversy, with Al-Shorouk reporting that several MPs have demanded that Katatny “clarify this insult to the people.”

More unanswered questions are present on Al-Dostour’s front page, regarding the illicit funds stolen by members of the former Mubarak regime — a total figure the paper claims amounts to “over LE2 trillion.”

“Will the accused confess to their crimes and the money they stole?” the independent paper’s front page demands to know. “Will the Arab and foreign banks agree to return these funds to Egyptian safes?”

Another question currently being debated is the proposal presented by Mubarak regime members two days ago, which would see them return portions of their contested wealth if corruption charges against them are dropped. Al-Dostour reports on the proposal, as well as general reactions to it, with the Muslim Brotherhood and the April 6 Youth Movement, as well as several Islamist parties and activist groups, all voicing their outright rejection. This does not, however, seem to have dissuaded the government from continuing to consider the offer, with Al-Dostour reporting that the Finance Ministry is currently “studying the reconciliation requests.” Meanwhile, activist groups continue to claim that the decision is not the government's to make.

The issue also receives some attention on the front page of Al-Ahram, with the state-owned paper reprinting Finance Minister Momtaz al-Saeed's explanation of how “regaining these funds from the Tora [Prison] inmates would be beneficial to Egypt, given the tough circumstances that the country is currently going through.” Hinting that the stolen funds would not be returned unless the members of the Mubarak regime decided to do so, Saeed continued, “As finance minister, I believe it would be in Egypt's best interest for us to begin negotiating.”

Al-Ahram's report also brings the LE2 trillion figure down to LE225 billion.

This comes under Al-Ahram's lead story, which revolves around the announcement of a decision by the Supreme Constitutional Court that the final results of the upcoming presidential election are to be declared by the Presidential Elections Commission. The article then details the preparations for the elections, with the commission sending out 100,000 forms to Egyptian embassies abroad to accommodate expatriate voters.

Meanwhile, coverage of the increasing number of presidential candidates continues. Most papers opt to stick to the extremes of the political spectrum, focusing on either familiar faces or nutjobs. Thursday's papers include a ‘candidate’ whose platform consists of a pledge to rid the Arabic alphabet of the letter ‘waw,’ and another requesting that he himself be executed. The papers have even more fun, though, with the math teacher (unemployed in Al-Akhbar's version) who visited the Presidential Elections Commission to ask about the required documents for eligibility. According to Al-Tahrir, as he was taking his ID card out of his pocket he “accidentally dropped a bag of weed.” The independent paper reports that the man was immediately arrested.

The same Al-Tahrir issue also comes with a free, four-page wrestling ‘magazine.’ For some reason.

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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