CAIRO: The Pharmacist Syndicate has suspended its secretary-general, Abdullah Zain el-Abidine, and referred him to criminal investigation for holding a press conference Saturday without prior approval in violation of the syndicate’s policies, syndicate Deputy Mohamed Seoudi told The Cairo Post Monday.
“I held the conference upon requests from syndicate members to discuss the rights of pharmacists and the medical conditions of members in prison, such as the two cases in which pharmacists died in jail as a result of medical negligence,” Abidine commented in statements to The Cairo Post Monday.
Abidine was referring to the cases of Safwat Khalil, who died in Dakahlia in September 2013 after being denied treatment for cancer, according to Muslim Brotherhood news sources. His death came a few hours after a court agreed to release him, but prosecution authorities did not execute the decision, Al Jazeera reported on Sept. 27, 2013.
Khalil has been recognized as a leading Brotherhood member and reported as so by pro-MB websites such as Masress. The other prisoner death was in Minya in the month that followed, as pharmacist Salah Abu el-Leil died in a public hospital from liver failure, according to the state-run MENA on Oct. 10, 2013. It has also been reported that his death was caused by mistreatment and torture inside prison.
“The Pharmacists Syndicate demanded investigations into the death of pro-Mohamed Morsi member Abu el-Leil, upon allegations that he was subject to torture in jail,” Al-Masry Al-Youm wrote on Oct. 30 2013.
Thus, Abidine does not see a problem in calling for the defense of syndicate members, regardless of their political affiliation, he told The Cairo Post. He said he believed this is something that doesn’t require the prior approval of the syndicate, and added that he respects the syndicate’s policies and the syndicate deputy’s legal entitlements.
The same conference was also the reason stated by syndicate head Mohamed Abdel Gawad in his resignation announced Sunday, and that decision is final, Abdel Gawad confirmed in statements to The Cairo Post Monday.
A political conflict has been ongoing within the syndicate for a long time, Abdel Gawad said, mainly between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and liberals. “I quit because I gave up on trying to solve problems, and I strongly object turning the syndicate into a political arena,” he said.
However, Seoudi had a different interpretation of the head of the syndicate’s decision, as he told The Cairo Post that Abdel Gawad has been “absent” from the syndicate for too long, providing neither effective progress on different issues, nor “even moral support.”
“It could be age-related as well, but he has been so busy with his own company,” Seoudi said. Abdel Gawad, 73, in 2001 founded a pharmaceutical distribution company called Ibn Sina Pharma with a French partner before the company came under full Egyptian control in 2006.
None of the three syndicate senior members spoke in detail of a particular political conflict or made direct accusations, and only Abdel Gawad classified the disagreement as being between pro-MB and others factions. He stated that increased tensions drove the syndicate away from its original cause “which is the [pharmaceutical] profession, he told Mehwar channel Sunday.
“I have been working at the syndicate for nearly 25 years and can confirm that MB members caused a split in the syndicate’s council over politics,” Abdel Gawad said, adding that his personal political views are Nasserist, and denying any claims of MB affiliation.
But Seoudi described what was happening inside the syndicate between pharmacists as the reflection of the public division on the political scene, saying: “It is not true that the syndicate is ‘controlled’ by the MB but there are various political affiliations inside the syndicate that often cause tensions, and we’re a syndicate that is supposed to serve everybody.” Seoudi also said he agreed with the idea that the syndicate should remain outside political debates.
The MB’s wide entry to the syndicate was in March 2013, Abidine said, which was the timing of annual syndicate elections. The candidacies for upcoming elections will be announced in December, according to the president of the syndicate.
Following the removal of Morsi from power in July 2013, different Egyptian syndicates launched aggressive campaigns against what they called “brotherhoodization.” In January, the Engineers Syndicate withdrew confidence from its board of directors.
The Teachers’ Syndicate also went through judicial issues over the presence of pro-MB members in the council following a lawsuit presented by a teacher to dissolve the council, which was later appealed in court and stopped in April 2014.
In the same way, the Pharmacist Syndicate faced court restrictions, with a recent verdict issued by the Cairo Court for Urgent Affairs to impose judicial monitoring on the syndicate’s finances. The court ruled upon a lawsuit followed by four members of the syndicate. The same court’s appeal branch had rejected judicial control in August.
The lawsuit said the syndicate’s money was being used to serve “personal motives” such as supporting MB members and using the syndicate as a source to promote pro-MB causes, Al-Shorouq reported on Oct. 27.
“The syndicate filed a challenge that the court is still looking into,” Seoudi told The Cairo Post, as Abidine on the other hand assured that the finances of the syndicate are subject to the Central Auditing Organization.
“All the accusations are just claims, nobody ever provided evidence,” Abidine said.