Sunday’s papers: Tantawi testimony shrouded in mystery

Predictably, the appearance of Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi in court to testify in the trial of former President Hosni Mubarak, his sons, former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly and six of his assistants, charged with killing protesters during the revolution, dominates today's press.

Judge Ahmed Refaat imposed a ban on the media reporting on or even attending the trial two trial sessions ago, so newspapers are reduced to reporting on the logistics of the events.

Independent Al-Tahrir's headline asks, “What did the field marshall say during the trial of Mubarak?” but does not answer the question. According to the daily, Tantawi appeared in court for 40 minutes and was asked 20 questions. The prosecution posed only two questions, which were both overruled by the judge.

Questioning ended when people attending the trial began began chanting, “Down with military rule!” during the final minutes of Tantawi’s appearance, the newspaper reports.

State-run Al-Ahram meanwhile tells readers that after taking the oath, septuagenarian Tantawi declined Judge Refaat’s offer that he testify sitting down and remained standing throughout “out of respect for the court and for the Egyptian judiciary.”

Tantawi was due in court two weeks ago but failed to appear, saying he was too busy addressing internal security issues following an attack on the Israeli Embassy on 9 September.

The trial has been adjourned until 30 October.

Another big case for the press today is that of two policemen accused of involvement in the death of Khaled Saeed in June 2010.

Eyewitnesses have alleged that the two officers, Mahmoud Saleh Mahmoud and Awad Ismail, beat Saeed to death on 6 June 2010 in Alexandria. Defense lawyers, though, have alleged that Saeed choked on a bag of marijuana that he swallowed when approached by the policemen. His family and rights groups have consistently maintained that the wrap was placed in Saeed's throat by the policemen in an attempt to make it look like he choked to death.

State media led a virulent vilification campaign against Saeed’s family before the revolution, alleging that the dead man was a drug user with a criminal record and questioning his brother’s dual Egyptian-US nationality.

All that is history in state-run Al-Akhbar today.

The state daily headlines with “Surprise in the Khaled Saeed Case: Autopsy reports confirm that a marijuana wrap was placed in Saeed's throat against his will while he was unconscious,” without specifying that this revelation comes as a surprise only to the newspaper itself.

Some things never change, however, as the state campaign of accusing NGOs of being conduits for foreign meddling in Egyptian affairs continues.

Al-Akhbar runs a full-page report detailing the government’s fact-finding report on foreign funding of NGOs by the European Union and other countries and organizations.

The article reads that the Ansar al-Sunnah al-Mohamediyya group allegedly received LE181 million in financing from Qatar's Sheikh Eid bin Mohamed al-Thani Charity Foundation, with the government report alleging that “only LE30 million was spent on orphans and the poor while LE133 million was spent on what was called development issues.” No explanation is given as to where the other LE18 million went.

The report concludes by outlining why it refuses all forms of “foreign political funds on principle.”

“[Foreign funding] gives whoever pays this money the opportunity to interfere in our internal affairs for their own ends, which have nothing to do with our national interests,” Al-Akhbar quotes.

Egyptian civil society groups have condemned the recently launched campaign against NGO funding, which has been heavily reported on in state media as an attempt to discredit them.

Al-Tahrir’s Ibrahim Eissa weighs in on the debate about which electoral system should be used for Egypt’s upcoming parliamentary elections in his column today.

Eissa suggests that political parties’ demand for a party list-based system will be a “disaster that falls on our heads” because it will polarize votes between Islamists and secularists, making the result the “the twin of [March’s] referendum.”

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

Sawt al-Umma: Weekly, privately owned

Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Arab Nasserist party

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