Christian governor fired in Egypt


Emad Mikhail, the Christian governor of Qena, has been dismissed from his post on Monday by the Egyptian interior minister Mansour Eisawy, according to Al Arabiya’s correspondent in Egypt.

Thousands of Egyptians have been protesting for many days demanding the sacking of Mr. Mikhail and two other provincial governors who had served in the police force of deposed President Hosni Mubarak. These protests have tested the authority of the interim military government that took over after Mr. Mubarak was forced to step down in February.

The biggest protest was held in Qena province in southern Egypt, where some 5,000 people gathered around the office of governor Emad Mikhail to demand his resignation

Mr. Mikhail is one of two Christian governors appointed by the military generals who now rule Egypt; the protests in Qena have been going on for a week as Egyptians flex their newfound political muscle after Mr. Mubarak’s ouster.

Police brutality was one of the factors that ignited the mass protests that led to Mr. Mubarak’s resignation.

Protesters torched several police stations and former Interior Minister Habib el-Adli is now on trial for corruption and the violent crackdown on the uprising, which included the use of snipers and thugs against unarmed demonstrators.

Islamists in the southern province of Qena, which has a large Christian population, had initially staged the protests, saying they wanted a Muslim governor.

But the demonstrations have since widened to include Christians, who say they are not objecting to Mr. Mikhail’s religion but that fact that he had worked closely with Mr. el-Adli.

Christians make up some 10 percent of Egypt’s 80 million people, and Qena has seen its share of sectarian violence.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s public prosecutor ordered on Sunday the transfer of former President Hosni Mubarak from his hospital in a Red Sea resort town to a Cairo prison hospital pending a corruption and murder probe after a doctor declared him well enough to travel.

Prosecutor General Abdel-Maguid Mahmoud said Mr. Mubarak was originally supposed to be moved to Cairo's Tora prison hospital, but it was not yet ready to receive him. Instead he would stay in a military hospital until the prison facility was ready.

The order followed an examination of the former president’s health to determine if he was fit enough to be relocated.

The prosecutor cited Dr. Ahmed el-Seba’i as saying on Sunday that Mr. Mubarak's condition was “stable” and there was nothing to stop him travelling, but that he needed to be under constant medical care because his heart could stop beating “at any moment”.

But two senior military officials in the Sinai Desert, where the resort town is based, said they would refuse to move Mr. Mubarak, because they did not believe he was well enough to be transferred.

The two senior officials spoke on condition of anonymity to the Associated Press, and it was not immediately clear if they had the authority to override the transfer order.

The former president was hospitalized with heart problems after he and his sons were ordered into custody for 15 days on April 13 while being investigated for corruption allegations and their role in the shooting of protesters during the weeks of demonstrations against his rule. Mr. Mubarak has said that the accusations were “lies.”

Prosecutors demanded that Mr. Mubarak be moved to a military hospital earlier but he had not been pronounced well enough and medical sources said last week he had stopped eating or taking medication to persuade Egypt’s army rulers to keep him in Sharm El Sheikh.

Mr. Mubarak’s two sons, Gamal and Alaa, are now in prison in Cairo.

An official source cited by state news agency MENA said Mr. Mubarak could be moved to the military hospital within 48 hours.

The transfer is likely to be swift and discreet because of the security challenge faced by Egypt’s army rulers in moving the former leader to the capital.

The ruling military council, which took power when Mr. Mubarak quit on February 11, has been under pressure to put him on trial.

Prosecuting Mr. Mubarak was a major demand of protesters who led the 18-day uprising.

Many Egyptians see him as a despot whose rule widened the rift between millions of poor and the wealthy elite.

But many in the military see Mr. Mubarak, a former air force commander during the 1973 war with Israel, as a war hero.

The 82-year-old former leader was admitted to a hospital in Sharm El Sheikh with an unspecified illness the day that prosecutors ordered him detained for questioning; mystery still surrounds his medical condition.

(Ammar Benaziz of Al Arabiya can be reached at: ammar.benaziz@mbc.net. Sara Ghasemilee, also of Al Arabiya, can be reached at: sara.ghasemilee@mbc.net)