The saga over the nationality of Salafist presidential candidate Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail
's mother took a new twist Wednesday when The New York Times claimed California public records prove she became a US citizen before she died.
If confirmed, this would disqualify Abu-Ismail from running for president because electoral rules bar candidates with a parent who holds citizenship in any other country even if both parents are also citizens of Egypt.
A spokesman for Abu-Ismail’s campaign said it had sent a delegation to inspect the documents.
The documents seen by the Times were a "report from a database of public records that included an address in Santa Monica, California, for his mother, Nawal Abel-Aziz Nour, as well as her name on a Los Angeles voter registration list."
Mohamed Fahim Abdel-Ghaffar, Abu-Ismail's campaign spokesman, suggested the document could be a forgery.
Interior Ministry officials, who preferred to remain anonymous, said Wednesday that "they had obtained copies of what they described as American 'travel documents' belonging to Nawal Abdel-Aziz Nour that indicated she had been a United States citizen before her death, but the exact nature of the documents could not be confirmed.
Abu-Ismail filed a lawsuit at the State Council Wednesday against the head of the Supreme Electoral Commission Abdel-Moez Ibrahim and Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, to demand a certificate confirming his mother did not hold dual nationality.
He has said his late mother did not hold US citizenship but acquired a green card (permanent resident status) because she visited his US-based sister who holds US nationality.
Abu-Ismail has accused the authorities of propagating this "rumour" in order to taint his image as a presidential candidate and to scupper his election campaign.
Earlier Thursday, the Salafist Front – formed after the January 25 Revolution to call for the adoption of Islamic law in Egypt – announced that it would protest in Tahrir Square Friday in support of Abu-Ismail.
With a relatively brief history in electoral politics, a respectable career as a lawyer, a reputable status as an influential Islamic preacher, and known for his sharp political rhetoric, Abu-Ismail has emerged as one of the frontrunners in Egypt’s first post-Mubarak presidential contest.
He is the son of the prominent Islamist figure Salah Abu-Ismail, who was a leading Al-Azhar scholar, a long-standing member of parliament, and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Abu-Ismail announced his decision to run for the presidency in May 2011.
Presidential elections will take place 23-24 May, with the president named on 21 June after a runoff vote — if necessary — 16-17 June.