Tuesday’s papers: Heikal’s testimony, controversial national dialogue and Islamic-secular divide

Tuesday’s local press highlights two main issues: the testimony of veteran journalist Mohamed Hassanein Heikal about former President Hosni Mubarak’s wealth, and the controversy accompanying the Conference on National Dialogue.

Earlier this month, Heikal was quoted by Al-Ahram newspaper as saying that Mubarak’s wealth is estimated between US$9 billion and US$11 billion, according to “credible documents.” Subsequently, he was summoned by the Illicit Gains Authority (IGA) to explain where he got this information.

However, his testimony turned out to be a big disappointment to many of his fans, who expected the shrewd journalist to possess some secret documents. According to the IGA statement published in Al-Ahram today, Heikal said that he was not responsible for the headline used by Al-Ahram which talked about “credible documents” and that the figures he used were already published in international periodicals.

While Heikal sought to put the blame on the newspaper where he was interviewed, Al-Wafd seized the opportunity to bash him. On the paper’s front page, a headline reads: “Heikal manipulates public opinion and fails to provide any documents about Mubarak’s wealth.” In recent weeks, the local press has voiced sharp critique of Heikal, accusing him of hypocrisy.

Paradoxically, Heikal, who served as mastermind and spokesman of Gamal Abdel Nasser’s dictatorial regime, has been lecturing in television and in newspapers about democratization and the corruption of Mubarak's regime.

In the meantime, most newspapers stress the divisions marring the national dialogue. For the second consecutive day, the sessions witnessed “quarrels” and “verbal feuds,” according to many dailies.

The privately-owned Al-Shorouk writes that the youths complained they were not given enough space to express their views and that “the elderly” dominated the talks. The paper quotes a young activist named Ahmed Abu Zayd dismissing the dialogue “as a farcical theatrical play.” Al-Shorouk also quotes Shady Harb, another youth leader, as saying that the president of the Conference on National Dialogue, Abdel Aziz Hegazy, had promised to hold a separate conference for youth within days.

On Sunday, the youth had a different complaint. They were provoked at seeing figures of Mubarak’s regime participate in the talks. The same youth announced they would take to the streets on Friday, heeding calls for “a second revolution.” The 25 January Revolutionary Youth Coalition decided to join the demonstrations demanding serious and fair trials of former leaders, and to protest inviting some of them to the national dialogue, according to Al-Shorouk.

Concerning Mubarak, Al-Ahram leads with a headline saying that the court will decide in two days whether to renew his detention. The 83-year-old former president has been held in custody in a hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh since mid-April on accusations of profiteering and killing protesters during the revolution.

Last week, there were reports hinting that Mubarak might be transferred soon to the hospital of the infamous Tora prison, where his two sons, Gamal and Alaa, and many of his former ministers are languishing. Al-Ahram goes on to quote an anonymous official source as saying that Mubarak had appropriated 5 million square meters of public land to in-laws of his son Gamal. The land was purportedly located along the Mediterranean northern coast and was secured by the in-laws are artificially low prices.

On the same page, Al-Ahram highlights the protest held by the family of the policeman who was sentenced to death on Sunday for killing protesters during the 25 January revolution that culminated in Mubarak's resignation. At least 150 of the policeman’s relatives rallied outside the Justice Ministry, calling for the cancellation of the verdict and contending that the convict was only following orders issued by senior officials. They asked for the prosecution of Mubarak and former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly instead.

On a different note, Al-Shorouk says that Jama’a al-Islamiya announced it would establish a political party and participate in the parliamentary poll scheduled for September. The paper adds that the group stressed its renunciation of violence and affirmed that it would engage in peaceful politics. During the 1980s and 1990s, the group perpetrated scores of terrorist attacks. However, its leaders formally repented and renounced violence in 1990.

In recent months, several Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis, announced the formation of political parties, exacerbating fears of liberals and Copts that Islamists would dominate the political scene in the post-Mubarak era. Such fears have recently solidified polarization between Islamists and secularists.

Columnist Ziyad Bahaa Eddin wrote about this particular issue in Tuesday’s Al-Shorouk. Bahaa Eddin blamed liberals for fueling the polarization, warning that such a divide along religious-secular lines could overshadow a plethora of more serious problems, including ways to achieve social justice, instate the rule of law and fight corruption.  

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

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

Youm7: Weekly, privately owned

Sawt al-Umma: Weekly, privately owned

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