The paper carrying the story was originally confiscated at its print house, but was allowed to resume printing after removing the interview. The controversy over the article is believed to stem from comments Gebril made regarding Israeli spies and prisoner exchanges. The story was not published in Al-Masry Al-Youm’s online edition, and the paper has not said it was responsible for the leak.
“No Israeli spy has ever been executed in Egypt,” Gebril, known in Egypt as “the Fox,” said. He added all Israeli spies were instead exchanged with Egyptian and Arab prisoners.
Al-Masry Al-Youm Editorial Director Mohamed Elsayed Saleh interviewed Gebril—who died in 2009—in mid-2007, but the report was only released to the public in a chain of eight articles beginning Sept. 25.
The final installment was due Wednesday, but Saleh told The Cairo Post that the article “has been postponed, rather than confiscated,” and that it will “somehow be published later, because it is a matter of timing.”
Saleh said the series was not published before the January 25 Revolution in 2011 because government intelligence did not respond to his request for permission to release it. “It was new to them that a former intelligence officer of such a high rank would speak to the press,” he said.
In a Wednesday statement, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) described the removal of the story as an attempt to “censor the right to information” and a “violation of press freedom.” The group called on authorities to “cease confiscating news it tries to keep unknown.”
The report tackled intelligence operations that Gebril carried out, including uncovering Egyptians who worked for the Israeli Mossad. Gebril served in Egyptian intelligence in a crucial period in its history from the late 1960s onward.
“Under peace with Israel, the burden of the work of the intelligence is bigger and more crucial. It often goes beyond political and military affairs to economic, social and cultural issues. The enemy at the time of peace has other goals than just stirring unrest and collecting information,” Al-Masry Al-Youm quoted Gebril as saying.
Saleh said he tried to publish the report in 2012 as Egypt was brokering reconciliation between Palestinian rivals Hamas and Fatah. However, as the initiative crumbled and amid “attacks” by ousted President Mohamed Morsi’s purge of Hosni Mubarak-era State institutions, including intelligence agencies, he did not release the report.
As the October War anniversary approached on Oct. 6, Saleh said he decided to publish his seven-year-old interview to mark the war in which Egypt restored the Sinai Peninsula after six years of its occupation by Israel.