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Prosecution takes up political line in interrogation of several Coalition for Hope defendants, hands down 15-day detention orders

Despite facing charges of coordinating with the Muslim Brotherhood to “bring down the state,” many of the people detained in a Tuesday arrest campaign have been questioned during initial interrogations about their leftist political affiliations and plans to form a new coalition to field candidates in the 2020 parliamentary elections.

After the initial interrogations played out over the last two days, the eight people arrested — former Member of Parliament Zyad Elelaimy, journalist Hisham Fouad, Multiples Group investment firm founder Omar El-Shenety, former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi’s campaign manager and journalist Hossam Moanis, Mostafa Abdel Moez Abdel Sattar, Independence Party supreme committee member Osama Abdel Aal Mohamed al-Aqbawy, Ahmed Abdel Galeel Hussein Ghoneim, and labor activist Hassan Mohamed Hussein Barbary — were handed down 15-day detention orders on Wednesday and grouped together in Case 930/2019.

Labor activist Ahmed Tamam, Kassem Abdel Kafy, the family lawer of prominent Muslim Brotherhood figure Khairat al-Shater, and pharmacist Khaled Abou Shady, who were arrested at earlier points over the last two weeks, have also been added to Case 930/2019.

In its press release issued on Tuesday, the Interior Ministry announced that the detainees faced charges of orchestrating a plot — identified by the ministry as “The Plan for Hope” — to “bring down the state” with backing from 19 companies and economic entities secretly managed by Muslim Brotherhood leaders from abroad.

Lawyers close to the case told Mada Masr that the prosecution charged all the defendants with abetting a terrorist organization and intentionally publishing false news, but only the businesspersons faced the additional charge of financing the Muslim Brotherhood.

Despite the official charges, the political motivation behind the arrests is becoming more apparent.

Yesterday, a source in Parliament told Mada Masr that the “hope” referenced in the ministry’s statement comes from the working name of a newly formed political alliance whose launch was scheduled in the coming days. According to the source, who spoke to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity, the Coalition for Hope includes MPs, political party leaders, youth and journalists who were looking to enter the political arena and prepare to run in the upcoming 2020 parliamentary elections.

Some but not all of these arrested on Tuesday were involved in the emerging political coalition, according to a source in the Civil Democratic Movement, an alliance of political parties that was formed in December 2017 and was part of the meetings to set up the Coalition for Hope.

The Coalition for Hope and the political stripes of those arrested came to the surface during interrogations.

According to the Journalists Syndicate lawyer Mokhtar Abou Bakr, the prosecution did not reference any charges pertaining to receiving money from the Muslim Brotherhood in the questioning of Fouad and Moanis. Instead, the prosecution asked the defendants about their political beliefs and their views in general about authority and the state of the country. The same line of questioning was presented to Elelaimy, according to lawyer Khaled Ali.

According to Abou Bakr, the prosecution asked Fouad how and why he chose to adopt a leftist political position.

This line of questioning was confirmed by Arabic Network for Information on Human Rights lawyer Ahmed Abdel Latif, who told Mada Masr that the prosecution did not ask about the US$25 million mentioned in the Interior Ministry’s press release to the media. Instead, according to Abdel Latif, the prosecution presented defendants with a three-page document outlining the goals of the “Plan for Hope.”

Police confiscated the document in a raid on Hossam Moanis’s home, according to Abdel Latif, who added that the same document was also presented in Tuesday’s interrogation of Barbary, whom the prosecution has claimed was in possession of the Coalition for Hope’s “plan.”

According to lawyer Ahmed Saad, organizational material for the new political coalition was also confiscated from defendant Osama al-Aqbawy’s house. However, there was no mention of the documents during his interrogation.

Abdel Latif also stated that labor activist Ahmed Tamam was among those interrogated yesterday. Tamam was arrested two days ago, was added to Case 930/2019 and charged with financing the Muslim Brotherhood and abetting a terrorist organization.

Lawyer Ahmed Saad told Mada Masr that the public prosecution has also added Khaled Abou Shady, who was arrested 12 days ago, as well as Kassem Abdel Kafy, who was arrested three days ago, to the case. Both face the same charges as Tamam.

Saad also stated that Aqabawy turned himself in to the police yesterday after security forces arrested his 19-year-old daughter Mawada in order to coerce him into surrendering himself at the headquarters of the National Security Agency. The NSA, however, has denied knowing of his daughter’s whereabouts, Saad added.

A group of journalists issued a statement on Wednesday morning condemning what they described as a “crime” against all those arrested in the case. The statement expressed outrage at the “fabricated” charges facing the defendants, the intimidation and forced entries which colored many of the arrests, and the “systematic defamation” of their colleagues.

The journalists also criticized the media coverage that case has attracted in the Egyptian press, which, they argued, has largely treated those standing accused in the case as guilty.

The statement called on the Journalists Syndicate to take the necessary steps to ensure the release of all detained journalists.

A number of media outlets launched a smear campaign yesterday in support of  the Interior Ministry’s accusations, specifically targeting Zeyad Elelaimy, who was described by a former official of the Interior Ministry as the mastermind behind the “Plan  for Hope.

Elelaimy, the most prominent of those arrested, is a lawyer and former member of parliament who helped found the Youth Revolution Coalition in 2011 and the Egyptian Social Democratic Party.

The journalist Hisham Fouad is a member of the Revolutionary Socialists and a trade union activist, who is involved in the Front to Defend Journalists and Freedoms initiative in the Journalists Syndicate. Fouad’s assets were frozen in 2015 as part of a state campaign to seize assets of blacklisted groups, most notably the Muslim Brotherhood.

Moanis is a senior member of the Karama Party, a Nasserist party founded by former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi.

Shenety previously held a number of executive positions in the business sector, including managing director of the Multiples Investments Group and a board member of the private equity firm, The Abraaj Group. In August 2017, the state committee in charge of managing Muslim Brotherhood assets took control of the Arab International Company for Commercial Agencies, which owns Shenety’s Alef bookstore chain.

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