Founder of Egyptian paper Al-Masry al-Youm arrested

In this Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011 file photo, an Egyptian trader reads a copy of the Al-Masry Al-Youm local newspaper fronted by pictures of clashes between protesters and security forces, at the Egyptian stock exchange in Cairo, Egypt. (AP)

Salah Diab, a businessman who in 2004 founded Egyptian daily al-Masry al-Youm was arrested on early Sunday, along with his son Tawfik, his newspaper reported, however reasons for their custody are still not clear.

The business tycoon Diab, who was arrested at his home in Egypt’s third largest city Giza, was previously accused of acquiring agricultural land from the Agriculture Ministry at a price below market levels.

The case was made against him and other defendants in 2011 after the prosecution bureau received a complaint about the alleged fraud. Diab and other defendants had used the land to build tourist resorts.

So far, the interior ministry did not issue any statements on Diab’s arrest, al-Masry al-Youmsaid, with observers inquiring why now Diab was detained.

While Giza’s security head told the newspaper that he did not any information about the arrest, a prosecutor said Diab’s assets and those belonging to a number of his business partners had been temporarily frozen.

Cairo’s criminal court will hold a session on the asset freeze of Diab and more than 15 other defendants on Tuesday after the fraud charges, al-Wafd, the daily newspaper published by the Wafd party in Giza reported.

Among the defendants are Diab’s wife and Mahamoud al-Jamal, the father-in-law of toppled Egyptian leader’s younger son Gamal Mubarak, al-Wafd added.

Meanwhile, Egypt Independent, the English language sister website of al-Masry al-Youm, said that is was “not yet clear whether the arrest was linked to the lawsuit.”

Another official source told the state-owned al-Ahram that the authorities have found arms and ammunitions in his villa.

The tycoon, according to al-Ahram, said he had kept the weapons for personal protection after the uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, in addition to quarrels with his neighbors.

The source said Diab and his son were implicated in a case where 11 people were injured during a clash when neighbors attempted to climb the walls of his villa.

However, publisher Hisham Kassem, co-founder of al-Masry al-Youm, said in an interview with the independent newspaper Mada Masr that Diab’s arrest may have been due to the paper’s content.

Kassem, who is the current advisor on internal structural changes at the daily said since the paper’s Editor-in-Chief Mahmoud Mosallam resigned in October, its coverage had become more critical of the state.

The co-founder said security forces leaking pictures of Diab to the media was a move that could hint to the political nature of the arrest.

Kassem also criticized the detention of Diab’s son, saying he was not involved in the real estate deals.

Alia al-Mahdi, a professor at Cairo University, warned that the move could have a chilling effect on investment and would be further discouragement to business people - Egyptians or foreigners - in light of the Russian plane crash last weekend over the Sinai peninsula that threatens Egypt’s vital tourism industry.

“Salah Diab is one of the biggest businessmen in Egypt, he deals with different sectors, be it petrol, agriculture and restaurants,” Mahdi said. “He [Diab] is employing no less than 10,000 workers.”

She also said the land he purchased in an “international auction” was actually a “barren desert,” and was only made more valuable after he and his group transformed it into a habitable area.

The academic said there was “no objection” against the state to questioning him or his son under normal legal processes, but added that the nature of his dawn arrest was unfitting.

“We are sending a negative message to the business community,” she said.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:49 - GMT 06:49
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