Cablegate: Egypt: Mb Leaders Released
DE RUEHEG #2183/01 3231612
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 191612Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4304
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 002183
NSC FOR AGUIRRE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/19/2019
TAGS: PREL PGOV KDEM KJUS PTER EG
SUBJECT: EGYPT: MB LEADERS RELEASED
REF: A. CAIRO 1467
B. CAIRO 1493
C. CAIRO 1893 D. CAIRO 2011 Classified By: Minister-Counselor for Economic and Political Affairs Donald A. Blome, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
1.(C) Key Points: -- On November 17, the GoE released on bail Muslim Brotherhood (MB) Guidance Bureau Dr. Abdel Moneim Fotouh along with 13 others arrested in the "international MB organization case." Until announced, there had been no indications that a release was imminent. -- The release has fueled speculation on a "deal" with the GoE promising to limit the MB's participation in the 2010 parliamentary elections. -- Fotouh's release comes as the MB prepares for internal elections of a new Supreme Guide set for January 2010. Fotouh's return to the Guidance Bureau will likely have a stabilizing impact on disputes within the MB leadership.
2.(C) Comment: Two competing theories have been offered for Fotouh's sudden release. The first is growing public sympathy for the ailing Fotouh, considered by most observers to be a moderate voice in the MB. The second is that GoE efforts to target MB "moderates," thought to be more popular with voters, had backfired, with conservative elements poised to dominate MB leadership, and a determination had been made that a more conservative MB with a leadership in flux was not in the GoE interest. Speculation on an elections deal, changes to the Guidance Bureau, and reports of a GoE effort to convince Akef to stay on as Supreme Guide until after national elections, will likely continue to circulate and intensify over the coming weeks. Real clarity on the direction the MB will take in 2010 will come in early January when elections for the Supreme Guide are scheduled to take place. End Comment.
3.(C) On November 17, Muslim Brotherhood's (MB) Guidance Bureau member Dr. Abdel Moneim Fotouh was released from detention along with thirteen other MB members arrested in what has become known as the "international MB organization case." All three Guidance Bureau members arrested in the case have now been released. The surprise release of Fotouh, a leading MB moderate and the architect of the MB's 2005 electoral campaign, has led to speculation that the MB has reached a "deal" with the regime to scale-back MB participation in the 2010 parliamentary elections. Supreme Guide Mahdi Akef caused a stir in October in an interview published in independent daily Al Masry Al Yom (AMAY) in which he confirmed no deal had been made with the government but said he "wished" they would make an offer, "even secretly, while I am still present" (referring to the end of his term in January 2010). Following Fotouh's release, Akef denied to AMAY that he had now made a deal.
4.(C) The release also comes the month before internal MB elections of a new Supreme Guide. Akef has been adamant that he will step down as promised. He has also been under increased pressure within the MB following a clash with more conservative members over his support of the promotion of moderate Essam El Eryan to the Guidance Bureau following the death of another member (Reftel C). The internal dispute was made public (rare as the internal workings of the MB leadership remain largely opaque) and was seen as a sign conservatives like Mahmoud Ezzat had already taken over. Although, members publically deny that Eryan will now join the Guidance Bureau, suggesting the decision made not to promote him is final, Fotouh's release may serve to stabilize the balance of power within the MB leadership.
5.(C) Fotouh and others had been held on consecutive 15-day orders of detention "pending investigation" (Reftel A) for belonging to an illegal organization, creating an international organization to "propagate" MB thinking in order to arrive at power "by force," and laundering funds from outside Egypt to support domestic MB activities. There have been conflicting press reports on the status of the investigation. Fotouh reportedly told AMAY that that the case was now "over." However, there has been no formal statement from judicial authorities on the case. Contacts in the Prosecutor's office told EmbOff they were not able to comment.
6. (C) Fotouh suffered from chronic health problems and was held at Kasr El Aini hospital during most of his detention. CAIRO 00002183 002 OF 002 Fotouh's extended stay in detention, despite his health, had led many to believe this case would be transferred to the military court system, common practice in other cases involving MB leaders (like ex-Deputy Supreme Guide Khariat El Shatter, whose military conviction was recently upheld in the newly established Military Appeals Court).
7.(C) Fellow MB Guidance Bureau member Osama Nasr (arrested May 14), also released on November 17, had also been ordered released by the court earlier in the summer, but that order was never applied. The third Guidance Bureau member arrested in the case, Mahmoud Hussein (arrested June 19), was released for health reasons on October 13. Another group, arrested with Fotouh, including Gamal Abdel Salem of the Egyptian Doctors Union, was released on November 13 following a court order. According to the media, a total of 22 MBs were released and three remain in detention in this case. Currency Exchange owner Ossama Soliman, arrested with Fotouh in June, appears to be one of the three. Earlier estimates from the MB on the number of members in prison range from 250 to 450. Scobey