CAIRO: Former intelligence official Tharwat Gouda was sentenced in a military tribunal for making press statements “in prejudice to national security,” and TV anchor Mahmoud Saad was summoned by military prosecution Wednesday, Dot Masr news website reported.
The military court has not announced further details, but said that Gouda was reported by the intelligence to have “divulged military secrets,” reported Youm7.
Officer denies his statements
In a Sept. 17 interview with Al-Watan, Gouda, who served during the Mohamed Morsi administration, said that intelligence “did not provide a single genuine piece of information” to the former president, who hailed from the Muslim Brotherhood.
“Intelligence did not conspire against Morsi. Rather, Morsi conspired against Egypt from an early stage, and we know he has been a traitor before he became president. The question is, why give him a piece of information? Importantly, what exactly did he want to get?”
On Sept. 18, Gouda denied on Facebook that he made that statement and accused the editors of the newspaper of “not considering national interests,” al-Watan reported. He apologized to the military and intelligence for the “unfounded nonsense attributed to him.” Al-Watan demanded an apology from Gouda and threatened to release the recording of the interview, but thus far has not.
According to the newspaper, Gouda claimed that Morsi was jailed in the Wadi al-Natroun prison prior to the January 25 Revolution in 2011 on charges of espionage, and although he had not been referred to the prosecution, his charges had been “completely verified” by the intelligence.
Morsi on trial for escaping from the Wadi al-Natroun prison in a major prison break in several governorates on Jan. 28, 2011 with alleged help from Hamas elements. Some Hamas and Lebanon-based Hezbollah detainees fled Egyptians jails at that time.
Morsi is also being tried on charges of espionage that took place during his presidency. He has denied charges of providing information to regional supporters of his Islamist group, such as Turkey, Qatar and Hamas.
Gouda, whose interview involved significant commendation for President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, accused Morsi of attempting to “Brotherhoodize” intelligence by planting officers loyal to the group in the institution.
He was critical of an alleged demand by Morsi to receive certain intelligence files on Israel, Iran and the U.S., and claimed Morsi warned foreign intelligence authorities of surveillance by their Egyptian counterparts.
Morsi-era head of the intelligence Rafat Shehata denied Gouda’s statement, saying that he was not even an undersecretary in a Sept. 21 interview with MBC Misr channel.
“We provided [Morsi] with advice and the correct information Egypt’s national interests. We also requested that he reach an agreement with parties and the National Salvation Front,” Shehata said.
Shehata added that Morsi was biased toward the Brotherhood when he entirely severed ties with the Syrian regime despite the intelligence and the Foreign Ministry objections.
Pressure on media
Al-Nahar presenter Mahmoud Saad has not returned to hosting his program following remarks last week by his guest psychologist Manal Omar, who mentioned the 1967 defeat to Israel. The remarks were made on the same day as an attack on the military in the Sinai killed 31 soldiers, and many social media users comments that the remarks were poorly timed.
Al-Nahar released a statement Oct. 25, saying that it would make “substantial amendments” regarding its policy.
“We realize that freedom of expression is not an excuse for making fun of the morale of the armed forces or the Egyptian people,” Al-Nahar said. “We can’t accept or allow any ‘opinion’ that would weaken our soldiers or promote rumors against our future.”
President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi has actively been meeting with Egyptian and Arab media practitioners. On Oct. 21, he met a large group of Arab journalists to discuss the “intellectual conscience” that obligates the media to cover news objectively and impartially to create an “intellectual base in support of Arab countries against present dangers,” according to a presidential statement.
On Oct. 19, TV host Wael al-Ibrashi’s show was cut off live as he was discussing students’ safety in schools. He blamed the move on “political pressure.”
The Oct. 1 issue of Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper was only allowed to print after it omitted an article on an interview with a late intelligence officer.
In the same context, the jurisdiction of military tribunals has been expanded. Sisi issued a decree Monday that allows military forces to join the police in security public institutions and utilities for two years, and accordingly any citizen arrested for attacking such entities may be referred to a military trial.
On Oct. 25, the Cabinet issued a decree stipulating that crimes of terrorism and “threaten the security of the country” may now fall under the purview of military courts.
The decrees followed two attacks in North Sinai Oct. 24, killing over 33 security personnel on top of a large death toll in the ranks of the police and military since the July 2013 ouster of Morsi.