Egypt arrests author, publisher over book on economy

In this March 19, 2018 file photo, an election billboard for Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, with Arabic that reads, "you are the hope," hangs in Cairo, Egypt. (AP)
Updated 23 October 2018
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Egypt arrests author, publisher over book on economy

  • The author and the publisher are accused of spreading “fake news”
  • Authorities seized 185 copies of an initial 200-copy run, which had not yet been distributed

CAIRO: Egypt has arrested an economist and his publisher over a book that challenged President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s economic policies, a lawyer said Tuesday, the latest in a wave of detentions in recent years targeting all forms of dissent.
Prize-winning economist Abdel-Khaleq Farouq and his publisher, Ibrahim el-Khateib, were detained Sunday. Mohammed Abdel-Aziz, a lawyer for the author, said the two are accused of spreading “fake news,” which carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison.
The book — entitled “Is Egypt Really a Poor Country?” — was posted online by activists. Authorities seized 185 copies of an initial 200-copy run, which had not yet been distributed.
The book contains scathing criticism of El-Sisi’s economic policies, accusing the general-turned-president of lacking the vision needed to remedy Egypt’s economic woes.
Farouq blames the country’s poor economy on what he calls the military’s monopoly of power since 1952, when officers toppled the monarchy.
The book’s thesis is primarily a repudiation of an assertion made by El-Sisi that Egypt was a poor country that could no longer afford costly state subsidies on key commodities and services, for decades a cornerstone of state policy to help the poor make ends meet.
In the book’s introduction, the author claims that El-Sisi’s assertion on Egypt’s poverty “exposed blatant ignorance of the realistic and untapped capabilities in Egypt’s economy and society and the lack of vision capable of exploiting these abilities and potential.”
Egypt has waged an unprecedented crackdown on dissent since El-Sisi led the military overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president in 2013. Thousands of people have been jailed, mainly Islamists but also several prominent secular activists.
The government has banned all unauthorized street protests and has blocked hundreds of websites, including some run by independent media and human rights groups.
First elected to office in 2014 and now serving a second, four-year term, El-Sisi has made the economy the focus of his rule, with a hands-on drive for fiscal reform, improving infrastructure and the construction of new cities. In exchange for a $12 billion IMF loan secured in 2016, he ordered steep hikes in the price of fuel, government services and utilities. The measures fed popular discontent but did not spark significant unrest.
Egypt’s parliament is packed with El-Sisi’s supporters, and his Cabinet is entirely made up of loyalists, which means that the president’s policies are never effectively challenged. He has on occasion bristled at criticism of his policies, once angrily yelling at a lawmaker who suggested postponing the lifting of state subsidies and on another occasion telling Egyptians to only listen to him.
In a televised address earlier this month, the 63-year-old El-Sisi boasted that he has for 55 years been closely monitoring “every detail, every part and every circumstance” in Egypt. His accumulated knowledge of the country, he said, has given him the will to take difficult decisions.
In the same address, he said Egypt would never realize its aspirations if the state continues to subsidize goods and services. If the rapid growth of the population — which has doubled to 100 million over the last 30 years — is not checked, then there will be no “realistic hope” for economic improvement, El-Sisi warned. “Can a nation prosper while facing such a challenge? How?“
Farouq’s book, according to the text published online, offers suggestions for improving the economy based in large part on fighting graft and waste as well as tax and administrative reforms.


Anger, grief sweep Iraq's Mosul as ferry disaster toll hits 100

Updated 44 min 31 sec ago
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Anger, grief sweep Iraq's Mosul as ferry disaster toll hits 100

  • Residents of Iraq's second city, scarred by years of extremist rule, demanded justice as Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi decreed three days of national mourning following Thursday's accident
  • Mosulites had resumed the annual festivities this year for the first time since Iraqi forces ousted Daesh following years of brutal extremist rule

MOSUL: The capsizing of a Tigris river ferry packed with families celebrating Kurdish New Year in Mosul left at least 100 people dead, mostly women and children, the Iraqi interior ministry said on Friday, as grief and anger swept the city.
Residents of Iraq's second city, scarred by years of extremist rule, demanded justice as Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi decreed three days of national mourning following Thursday's accident.
Mosulites had resumed the annual festivities this year for the first time since Iraqi forces ousted Daesh following years of brutal extremist rule.
But the celebrations turned to tragedy when the overcrowded vessel ran into trouble as it headed to a popular picnic site across the river Tigris.
Mosul security officials blamed the accident on high water levels and overcrowding on the boat.
Hundreds of relatives of victims and residents gathered Friday at the scene of the accident, where prayers were held for the dead.

Mourners bury one of the victims who died after an overloaded ferry sank in Tigris river near Mosul, during his funeral at Mosul cemetery, Iraq March 22, 2019. (Reuters)


Many said the disaster could have been avoided, and chanted "corruption is killing us!"
"We want those responsible to be brought to justice," said Mohammed Adel, 27, whose father was among those who died.
He accused officials of failing to enforce safety standards.
Abu Salem, who lost his wife and two children in the accident which also coincided with mother's day in Iraq, pinned blame for the tragedy on profit motives and the corruption that is endemic in Iraq.
The managers of the picnic site were "criminals... I want them to pay up and I won't leave here until they do", the 50-year Iraqi said.
Reflecting the popular mood, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, spiritual leader of Iraq's Shiite Mulim majority, in his Friday sermon accused "the authorities in charge of supervision of not doing their job".
Transparency International ranks Iraq in 12th place in its list of the world's most corrupt countries.
Video footage from cameras at the picnic site, posted online, showed a severely overcrowded vessel beginning to list as water comes aboard.
As it capsizes completely, it traps dozens of people under its hull.
Authorities had warned people to be cautious after several days of heavy rains led to water being released through the Mosul dam, causing the river to rise.
Videos showed a fast-flowing, bloated river and dozens of people floating in the water or trying to swim around the partly submerged boat.
Abdel Mahdi said the justice system "must do its job and the investigation must produce results on the reasons for this shipwreck".

General view of the scene where an overloaded ferry sank in the Tigris river near Mosul in Iraq, March, 21, 2019. (Reuters)


He and President Barham Saleh visited the site of the accident as the search continued for bodies, some of which were carried far downstream by the strong current.
While war and extremist attacks have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in Iraq in recent years, such accidents are relatively rare.
But corruption and the dismal state of public services in Iraq were triggers for widespread protests last year.
Daesh turned Mosul into its de facto capital after sweeping across much of the country's north in 2014.
The city spent three years under the group's iron-fisted rule until it was recaptured by Iraqi troops backed by a US-led coalition in 2017.
Survivors of Thursday's disaster were treated in hospitals heavily damaged by the months-long military campaign against the extremists.
A mortuary was receiving bodies wrapped in white shrouds, many bearing the names of women.
A forensics official said many had yet to be identified.
Iraq's justice ministry said it had ordered the arrest of nine ferry company officials and banned the owners of the vessel and the picnic site from leaving the country.
Officials implicated in various scandals have fled Iraq in recent years.