Hawass convicted in criminal court but still holds Egypt's antiquities portfolio

Nevine El-Aref , Monday 18 Apr 2011

Ahram Online gets the story from the antiquities ministry: Hawass appeals criminal court decision, which deposes him as antiquities minister for brouhaha over rental of museum bookstore

Zahi Hawass

A criminal court verdict, on Sunday, sentenced Zahi Hawass, minister of state for antiquities affairs to one year in jail, fined him LE1000 and released him of his ministerial duties for refusing to implement a verdict issued last year by an administrative court over a dispute between the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) and a businessman, Farid Attiya.

The ministry of State for Antiquities Affairs (MSAA) will appeal the criminal court verdict.

Until the appeals court announces its verdict the decision issued by the criminal court will not be enforced and Hawass will continue as Egypt’s antiquities minister.

Mohamed Ramadan, the supervisor of the office of the minister of the MSAA told Ahram Online this all began in May 2010 when the SCA, now the MSAA, opened a bidding process to rent the bookstore in the Egyptian Museum. A SCA committee chose to invite people based on their professional CV and working history with the SCA. Farid Attiya, a small businessman who used to rent the bookstore was excluded from bidding.

Ramadan pointed out that Attiya always paid rent very late, to the extent where he would sometimes be penalised for his delay.

Ramadan describes how Attiya was always manoeuvring to avoid paying the ten per cent increase in rent every year, as stipulated in his three-year lease. After the first year of running the bookstore/cafeteria, Ramadan continues, Attiya announced his inability to continue the three-year lease, a matter that made the SCA lose a lot of money during the time they put out a new ad and chose a new renter. Naturally, the MSAA did not invite him in the bidding process.

Finding himself excluded from the bidding process, Ramadan said that Attiya filed a law suit against the SCA in May 2010 in the administrative court. On 15 June the court issued its verdict, which forced MSAA to open the offer to include Attiya among the competitors. While the case was making its way through the court, a public agency, Sound and Light Organisation, was chosen to rent and run the bookstore. Attiya’s verdict came too late. The SCA did not implement the court verdict, which led Attiya to file a criminal law suit against the SCA. In November 2010, the criminal court decided to clear Hawass and the SCA. The Sound and Light Organisation went on with its new rent.

Attiya did not give up and, instead, filed another law suit in another criminal court, which announced today its sentence against Hawass of one year in jail, a penalty of LE1000 and to be released of his governmental duties.

“It was really a totally unexpected verdict and an unclear decision,” Ramadan told Ahram Online. He added that “we are in the right and I don’t know why such a decision was taken by the court.” 

On his part, Hawass said that the sentence was not against him, personally, but against his former position as the Secretary General of the SCA and that the legal department in the MSAA will appeal the verdict. He also clarified that the lawsuit was due to the opening of the bookstore for rent in the Egyptian museum and not over a land dispute, as the media announced.  

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