The new Egyptian parliament's first scandal broke this week amid disclosures that an ultraconservative Islamist attempted to mask his plastic surgery by convincing fellow lawmakers that his bruised and bandaged face was the work of an attack by thugs.
Sympathy engulfed Anwar Bilkimy after initial reports indicated that he was beaten and robbed. Egypt, after all, is experiencing a troubling jump in violent crime, including the beating of a presidential candidate in an attempted carjacking. But Bilkimy was undone by doctors stunned at a ruse that crossed the bounds of vanity and religion and was drenched in cue-the-violins melodrama.
With pressure intensifying on him, Bilkimy resigned Monday from parliament and his Salifi Nour party.
Many ultraconservative Islamists condemn plastic surgery as tampering with God's creation. The case has exposed the foibles of politicians and become a diversionary chuckle in an Egypt beset with deep economic and political problems as it makes the messy transition from military rule to democracy.
A member of parliament's subcommittee on health, Bilkimy had earlier said that he had been targeted by gunmen and received death threats after his committee urged that former President Hosni Mubarak be transferred to a prison hospital during his trial on charges of complicity in the killing of protesters during last year's revolution.
Bilkimy was visited in his hospital room by top lawmakers, including parliament Speaker Saad Katatni. But the tale began quickly unraveling. Dr. Mahmoud Nassef told investigators that Bilkimy's bandaged face was a result of plastic surgery. A report by the hospital where he was taken after the supposed beating stated that his nose was bandaged before he arrived in the emergency room.
Nader Bakar, a spokesman for the Salifi Nour party, said Bilkimy violated the party's rules and marred its reputation. "The core of Nour party is ethics, and in this situation there was lying, regardless of the motive behind it," Bakar said. "This incident is unacceptable."
The disgraced lawmaker's mea culpa was posted in the media: "I, Anwar Bilkimy, admit that my claims of an attack by gunmen on the highway road were untrue. ... That's why I submit my resignation after subjecting the party to public embarrassment and I also submit my resignation to the parliament's speaker."
Prosecutors are investigating whether Bilkimy will be charged for making false claims to police.
-- Amro Hassan and Jeffrey Fleishman
Photo: Anwar Bilkimy, center, speaks at a parliament session on Feb. 13. Credit: EPA