CAIRO -- Egyptian authorities on Tuesday ordered the arrest of former presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik in a corruption case that involves deposed leader Hosni Mubarak’s two sons and four retired military generals.
Judge Osama Alsaeedy referred Shafik, along with Gamal and Alaa Mubarak, to criminal court on charges of purposefully squandering public funds and selling plots of land in the Ismailia governorate below market value, Egypt’s state news agency reported.
The allegations bring up Shafik’s role as a chairman for a housing association in the 1990s when he reportedly sold land to the Mubarak brothers at unreasonably low prices. The judge called for Shafik, who was Hosni Mubarak's close friend and last prime minister, to be jailed and remain in custody until trial.
Shafik, who has lived in the United Arab Emirates since losing June’s presidential election to Muslim Brotherhood member Mohamed Morsi, recently slammed the Egyptian authorities’ decision to investigate him. In a television interview, he claimed the state’s actions were “politically motivated.”
When Shafik ran for president this year, the former pilot and aviation minister was viewed by Egyptian activists as the new face of Hosni Mubarak's authoritarian regime. One expert described the case as a legitimate one but warned politics were at play.
“There is initial evidence against Shafik and he was part of a corrupt regime,” said Ziad Akl, senior analyst at Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. “The Muslim Brotherhood is now going after the political symbols of Hosni Mubarak.”
Akl described the case as serving Morsi’s interests.
“This is to prove that Morsi is the just president who stood against whoever harmed the Egyptian people, but it will follow legal procedures and those accused will eventually have to go to trial,” Akl said.
In June, the elder Mubarak became the first ousted Arab leader to be sentenced to life in prison for failing to stop the killing of protesters during last year's 18-day uprising against him. He is serving his sentence in a high-security state prison.
His sons are both in custody and on trial for a separate case that involves insider trading at the stock market.
--Reem Abdellatif and Ned Parker
Photo: Then-presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik speaks during a June news conference in Cairo. Credit: Khaled Elfiqi / European Pressphoto Agency