Entries in Omar Suleiman (7)


Egypt Ex-Spy Chief Fights to Run for President

Tara Todras-Whitehill-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former Egyptian spy chief Omar Suleiman, who experts say oversaw torture for the Hosni Mubarak regime, has appealed a government ruling barring him from running for president in the country’s upcoming elections.

Suleiman, whose candidacy had caused uproar among both Islamists and the secular parties who led the revolution that toppled Mubarak, is among ten candidates who were barred by the country’s election commission from running for president on technical grounds. According to the commission, Suleiman did not submit enough signatures from local notables endorsing him to qualify as a candidate.

In a separate hurdle for Suleiman’s candidacy, Egypt’s parliament also passed legislation Thursday banning former top officials in the Mubarak regime from standing for office, but that bill must be approved by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to become law.

Suleiman served at the top of Egyptian intelligence from 1993 until he was briefly appointed vice president to then-President Hosni Mubarak just days before the regime fell in February 2011. As ABC News reported last year, in that time experts said Suleiman had been America’s “point man in Egypt” and was integral to just about every intelligence operation the U.S. conducted there.

John Sifton, who authored a 2007 Human Rights Watch report on torture conducted by Egyptian intelligence, said Suleiman oversaw joint operations with the CIA and other Arab countries “which featured illegal renditions and tortures of dozens of detainees.” Under the rendition program, terror suspects were grabbed from one country and delivered by the U.S. to yet another country to be interrogated, often using harsh techniques.

The election commission ruled that Suleiman had not collected enough signatures from a specific region of Egypt to qualify as a candidate. Suleiman appealed his disqualifications by presenting additional endorsements. While the commission is not expected to rule on the appeal before Tuesday, Egypt’s Al Arabiya television reported Monday that the secretary general of the commission had asserted the body could not accept endorsements submitted after the April 8 deadline.

Also appealing disqualification was Egypt’s leading Islamist candidate, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Khairat Shater, who was barred because he is running less than six years after his release from prison. On Monday, Shater continued campaigning, vowing to return to the street “to continue the revolution if [the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces] continues to skew the race in favor of [Mubarak's party]“.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which was persecuted under Mubarak, claims that Shater’s jailing was politically motivated and should not disqualify him from running.

Salafi preacher Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, who was disqualified because his mother allegedly holds U.S. citizenship, is also appealing the commission’s decision. Abu Ismail has denied that his mother is a U.S. citizen, saying his sister is a citizen and his mother had only a green card.  Egyptian law requires that candidates, their spouses and parents only hold Egyptian citizenship. The election commission’s ruling seemed to contradict a decision by the Cairo administrative court last week that found that his mother was not a U.S. citizen.

There are a total of 13 remaining candidates in the race who have not been disqualified. Chief among them are Amr Mousa, Mubarak’s foreign minister for a decade, Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, a former member and Muslim Brotherhood reformer who was ousted from the party, and Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister.

Egypt’s presidential election is expected to be held on May 22 and 23 with a final list of candidates expected to be released by April 26.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Egyptian Presidential Candidate Oversaw Torture, According to Intelligence

Tara Todras-Whitehill-Pool/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- One of the men campaigning to lead Egypt into its post-Mubarak future used to oversee torture for the Mubarak regime, according to Western intelligence experts, and even aided the CIA in its controversial “rendition” program for suspected terrorists.

The announcement by Omar Suleiman that he would be running for president brought thousands of protestors into Cairo’s streets this week, and spurred Egypt’s parliament to pass a law that would bar Suleiman and another former official in the Mubarak regime from seeking office.

Suleiman served at the top of Egyptian intelligence from 1993 until he was briefly appointed vice president to then-President Hosni Mubarak just days before the regime fell in February 2011. As ABC News reported last year, in that time experts said Suleiman had been America’s “point man in Egypt” and was integral to just about every intelligence operation the U.S. conducted there.

Ron Suskind, author of the book The One Percent Doctrine, told ABC News last year that when the CIA once asked Suleiman for a DNA sample from a relative of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, Suleiman offered the man’s whole arm instead.

“He’s a charitable man, friendly,” Suskin said. “He tortures only people that he doesn’t know.”

John Sifton, who authored a 2007 Human Rights Watch report on torture conducted by Egyptian intelligence, said Suleiman oversaw joint operations with the CIA and other Arab countries, “which featured illegal renditions and tortures of dozens of detainees.”

Despite such accusations, a leaked 2006 State Department memo underscored Suleiman’s value in America’s eyes.

“Our intelligence collaboration with Omar Soliman,” says the cable, using an alternate spelling of his name, “is now probably the most successful element of the [U.S.-Egypt] relationship.”

Mass protests by Islamist groups in Egypt have reportedly followed Suleiman’s bid for presidency, with thousands chanting in Tahrir Square Friday, “Suleiman, do you think this is the old days?”

Egypt’s parliament passed legislation Thursday that bans former Mubarak top officials from becoming president -- a measure that,  if approved by Egypt’s ruling military, could put a quick end to Suleiman’s controversial run, according to Egypt’s English-language newspaper Ahram.

Rejecting claims by Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood that he would return Egypt to the days of Mubarak, Suleiman wrote in a state-owned newspaper that “no one, no matter who he is, will be able to reinvent a regime that fell, folded and was rejected and revolted against.”

“The clock cannot be turned back and the revolution laid down a new reality that cannot be ignored,” he wrote.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Egypt: Protesters Head to Parliament; VP Calls for End to Protests

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(CAIRO) -- Anti-government protesters in Egypt headed towards parliament Wednesday for a second straight day, demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

Hundreds of protesters left Cairo's Tahrir Square and marched to parliament again in an effort to escalate pressure on the government to concede to their demands.  Demonstrators want Mubarak, along with his entire government, to step down.

As demonstrations continue for a 16th day, Vice President Omar Suleiman is calling for an end to the protests.

According to the state-run news agency Mena, Suleiman said, "We can't bear this for a long time, and there must be an end to this crisis as soon as possible," while speaking with newspaper editors on Tuesday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Egypt: Protester Says Negotiations Are a 'Trick'


(CAIRO) -- On Monday, I spoke with Abdul Rahman Yusuf, a poet and political activist who has been sleeping in Tahrir Square for 10 days.  He was also at Sunday's meeting with Vice President Omar Suleiman.

Yusuf said fellow activists in the Square asked him to go, but he made it clear in his comments immediately after their request, (and was quoted in local papers) saying that he did not speak for any movement, and made no deals.

This guy is no fake dissident or regime puppet; he's been on the front lines of the demonstrations, and said he would never forget the sound of a bullet hitting the guy next to him Wednesday night.  He also said he wouldn't leave the Square until President Hosni Mubarak was gone.

It's hard to overstate the distrust of President Mubarak and his cronies.

"It's a trick!  It's a trick!" one protestor passionately declared when he heard me talking about historic negotiations between the Mubarak administration and the opposition.  It's clear that President Mubarak's talks of reform are not enough for the protesters.

And while most Egyptians are heading back to "normal life," I get the sense that they are quietly happy that the hard core protesters remain in the square -- guardians of the revolution, in a sense.  In fact, it seemed on Monday that many people just wanted to show up in the Square and take a stroll there after work, in solidarity and approval.

But under that degree of normalcy, there's still a lot of tension here despite Sunday's negotiations.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Egypt: Vice President Offers Concessions to Muslim Brotherhood

Photo Courtesy - Tara Todras-Whitehill-Pool/Getty ImagesREPORTER'S NOTEBOOK

(CAIRO) -- Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman met with representatives from Egypt's opposition groups on Sunday, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood, the country's largest party.

Egypt state television is reporting that Suleiman is offering the groups concessions, including freedom of the press, term limits to the presidency and the end of the country's emergency law.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which was outlawed in Egypt in 1954, did not send high-level leaders to the meetings, but said they agreed to go to test the government's intentions: to see if it is serious about reforms or if this is just an act.

After the meeting, I spoke with Dr. Khalil el-Gazar of the Muslim Brotherhood high council.

El-Gazar said the Muslim Brotherhood "were surprised" during Sunday's historic first meeting with the government when Suleiman stood for a minute to respect those killed in this revolution.  El-Gazar told me Suleiman said the government was wrong for what they did in the uprising and in the past.

During the meeting, Suleiman promised to stop harassing anti-government protesters and not pursue or punish them.  This may help thin the crowds in Liberation Square, because many are afraid to leave in case the government hunts them down.

El-Gazar said Egypt will keep its peace treaty with Israel in the future "because this is of value to the people of Egypt.  We don't want to break something of value to the people of Egypt."  He also said there must be peace in the Palestinian state.

Responding to U.S. fears of the Muslim Brotherhood, el-Gazar said, "We have good feelings towards the Western countries, but Islamophobia spread all over the Western countries," he said.  "We are astonished.  Why?"

In my exclusive interview with President Hosni Mubarak earlier this week, he blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for the violence in Tahrir Square during the protests.

El-Gazar countered that claim, saying that the Muslim Brotherhood are not fundamentalists, are not seeking a religious revolution and are not seeking the presidency themselves.  He said it was the young people who led the revolution in Egypt, not the Muslim Brotherhood. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Egypt: White House Calls for 'Clear Timeline' on Mubarak Departure

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- In a phone call with Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman, Vice President Biden called for President Hosni Mubarak to spell out when he intends to leave office.

In the strongest words to date, the White House said that during the phone call to Suleiman, Biden "stressed the need for a concrete reform agenda, a clear timeline, and immediate steps that demonstrate to the public and the opposition that the Egyptian government is committed to reform."

The calls for a "clear timeline" and "immediate steps" demonstrating a commitment to political reform are the latest ratcheting up of public rhetoric about President Obama's desire that Mubarak exit sooner rather than later.

First the administration called Mubarak an "ally" who needed to usher in reforms, then officials began to talk about the need for an "orderly transition," later specified as needing to begin "now." In a then-private message to Mubarak, President Obama said the next government should not be headed by Mubarak or his son.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Exclusive: Suleiman Says 'Egypt Will Not Be Anything Like Tunisia'


(CAIRO) -- In his first interview since becoming Egypt's newly-appointed vice president, Omar Suleiman agreed to sit down with me at the Presidential Palace Thursday.  I did so just after speaking with President Mubarak.

Until now, Sulieman had not agreed to do any interviews.  On Thursday, he went on Egyptian state television and then sat down with for an exclusive interview with me -- the first interview he has agreed to do with foreign media.

I asked Suleiman for his take on the conversation he had with the Obama administration about Mubarak's resignation.

"My telephone call with Clinton," he said.  "We discussed this issue but she didn't ask that President Mubarak step down now.  But I told her it was a process, and at the end of it, President Mubarak will leave."

Suleiman added that he would also not seek re-election as well.

Last week, in Tunisia, crowds staging similar protests ultimately caused the longtime leader of that country to flee with his family.  Vice President Suleiman vowed that this is not what will happen here.  Sulieman said Mubarak has no intention of leaving his country.

"No, Egypt will not be anything like Tunisia," he said.  "This is different.  You know that our president is a fighter.  He lived on this soil and he will die on this soil."

I asked Suleiman if Egypt, a country that has had very strong relations with Israel, would remain a strong ally of Israel, and uphold their peace agreement.

"Yes we will have a peace agreement," he said.  "We will keep it firmly and not violate it at all."

When I asked him about the pro-Mubarak mob that had attacked the anti-government demonstrators, he echoed what President Mubarak has said to me.

"It's a bad thing to see and we've never had this before," he said.  "Emotionally they went to the streets to express their feelings to our president.  And we don't know why they went to Tahrir Square."

Suleiman also denied that no one, protesters or otherwise, had been killed by "rifles or snipers."  He defended Mubarak's supporters.

"The pro-Mubarak group behaved very well," he said.  "Yes, we have to apologize to the young people.  But at the same time, we have to know exactly who is behind that."

But again, Suleiman repeated what Egyptian army officials said on State TV a few days ago, that the government will not use their army against its own people, even in heated moments.

"We will not use any violence against them," he said.  "We will ask them to go home but we will not push them to go home."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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