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Cablegate: Alexandria Governorate Partially Demolishes Ngo Medical

VZCZCXYZ0005
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHEG #0538 0581634
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 271634Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 3794

UNCLAS CAIRO 000538

SIPDIS

FOR NEA/ELA AND DRL

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM EG
SUBJECT: ALEXANDRIA GOVERNORATE PARTIALLY DEMOLISHES NGO MEDICAL
FACILITY

1. (SBU) A medical services NGO administered by the Anglican Church
in Alexandria was partially demolished February 13 on orders from
the Alexandria Governorate for operating in an unlicensed building.
Similar demolitions have occurred elsewhere in Alexandria recently
as part of a campaign by the new Governor of Alexandria to rein in
unlicensed construction. The Anglican NGO was the only building in
its immediate neighborhood to be affected, raising suspicions among
church officials and UK diplomats that it was singled out for
association with a foreign group or a Christian entity, or both.

2. (SBU) The medical facility was completed in late 2006 and
provided basic medical and dental services to the local community
which was underserved by the Egyptian health system. Church
activities and services were also held on the site. The demolition
resulted in the destruction of the center's walls but not its
support columns. To protect against building collapse, staff moved
high-value medical equipment donated by UK-based church groups to
the street where it was exposed to rain that began the same evening.
According to a church official present at the time, the building
had to be surrounded by GoE security personnel during the demolition
to prevent angry local residents from interfering with the work of
the demolition crew. An Egyptian national priest was arrested for
resisting the demolition and released later the same day. According
to church officials, he claimed to have been mistreated in custody
including rough handling and beatings while his hands were bound.

3. (SBU) The UK Consul General in Alexandria told APP Alexandria
Principal Officer that the NGO had begun receiving written
advisories from the Governorate of Alexandria of the demolition
order starting in January 2007, but had been unsuccessful in its
attempts to get a hearing with governorate officials to reconsider.
The demolition was suspended only upon direct intervention of the
British Ambassador with the Governor of Alexandria, who claimed
ignorance of the specific case and agreed to meet with church
representatives from Cairo.

4. (SBU) Comment: Demolitions of unlicensed buildings have been a
central feature of Alexandria's new (since August 2006) Governor
Adel Labib's program to instill stronger regulations and to bring
order to the city's building program, the lack of which had led over
the years to substandard construction, overbuilding, and poor urban
planning. Church officials claim, however, that the Anglican NGO
(located in the Ras Al-Soda neighborhood) was the only building in
the area targeted for demolition, though it was not the only
unlicensed structure. Church officials also complain that
significant costs were incurred in the establishment of the clinic,
including installation of diagnostic and other advanced medical
equipment purchased by UK-based church groups valued at GBP 500,000,
according to a church official.
Ricciardone

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