A court verdict issued Wednesday should allow Salafist presidential candidate Hazem Abu-Ismail to obtain documentation from the Ministry of Interior showing whether his mother was a dual Egypt-US citizen, human rights lawyer and presidential candidate Khaled Ali told Ahram Online.
"The problem is that both camps – the supporters of Abu-Ismail and his rivals – have misinterpreted the verdict and the case," said Ali.
Supporters regard the verdict as a proof that Nawal Abdel Aziz Nour, Abu-Ismail's mother, was never a US citizen. But according to Ali, this is not how the verdict should be read.
"This is not a case to determine whether Abu-Ismail's mother was a US national or not, but rather one to make the interior ministry release the required documents that clarify her status," explained the leftist candidate, who sits on his presidential rival's defence team.
According to Ali, only the interior ministry can produce the required legal documentation – not the foreign ministry or any other body.
While the foreign ministry announced that Abu-Ismail's mother did, in fact, hold US citizenship, Ali says, the interior ministry must issue a document showing that Abdel Aziz had received ministry permission to hold a second nationality.
"Article 10 of Egypt's immigration and citizenship law says that Egyptians may acquire a foreign nationality only after obtaining permission via a decree issued by the interior minister. Otherwise, he or she shall continue to be regarded as an Egyptian citizen. Otherwise, the Council of Ministers can rule to strip them of their Egyptian nationality," Ali explained.
"In this case, the council cannot strip Abu-Ismail's mother of her Egyptian citizenship after her death, so, according to the law, if she did not obtain permission before she was granted US citizenship, she should only be considered an Egyptian national."
However, it will ultimately be up to Egypt's Supreme Presidential Elections Committee (SPEC) to disqualify Abu-Ismail from the upcoming presidential race.
The final list of approved presidential candidates will be announced on 26 April. According to Article 28 of the constitutional declaration – issued last year by the ruling military council and approved via popular referendum – SPEC decisions are immune from appeal.
Ali, who was criticised by some supporters for joining Abu-Ismail's defence team, justified his decision by saying that there was "more to the case" than the issue of whether Abu-Ismail had lied about his mother's citizenship status.
"As a citizen, Abu-Ismail has the legal right to obtain the papers he needs from the interior ministry. No one can deny him this right or stand still as long as it's being violated, even if he doesn't agree with what Abu-Ismail stands for," says Ali.
The leftist presidential candidate questions the role of both the interior ministry and the SPEC in the Abu-Ismail case.
"This is a political case," he said. "Both the ministry and the SPEC want to keep people busy with the Abu-Ismail debate and distract their attention from the real issues, including the integrity of upcoming elections."
"The SPEC claims to have documents proving Abu-Ismail's mother has another nationality and accordingly can't run for president," Ali added. "So why doesn't it publish these documents?"
On 5 April, the Egyptian Authority for Migration and Passports issued a statement saying that Abdel-Aziz Nour had carried a US passport, number 500611598. The authority sent an official notification to the SPEC, headed by Farouk Sultan, that Abdel-Aziz had used her American passport several times in 2008 and 2009 during visits to the United States and Germany.
Abu-Ismail responded by lodging a lawsuit with the State Council against Supreme Electoral Commission head Abdel-Moez Ibrahim and Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim to demand that the latter produce a certificate confirming that his mother did not hold dual nationality.
If it is confirmed that she had been a US citizen, the revelation would disqualify the popular Salafist candidate from contesting the presidency, since electoral rules bar any candidate holding dual citizenship – or whose parents held anything but Egyptian nationality – from entering the race.