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Arabic press review: Leaked audio reveals bribes in military-linked projects in Egypt

Meanwhile, Erdogan bans 'disgraceful' textbooks for children in northern Syria, and Sudanese journalists protest at closure of pro-democracy radio station
YouTuber Abdullah al-Sharif says the audio leak is a conversation between major-general Farouk al-Kadi and a woman who takes a cut on projects she puts his way (screengrab)

Sisi advisers discuss huge bribes in leaked audio

Egyptian opposition figure and YouTuber Abdullah al-Sharif has broadcast on his show an audio leak reportedly of advisers to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi discussing bribes.

In the leak, an officer with the rank of major-general, Farouk al-Kadi, can be heard coordinating bribes worth millions of Egyptian pounds (EGP) with a woman named Mervat Mohammed Ali. Sharif said that both of them work as advisers to Sisi.

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Kadi’s conversation with Ali revolves around projects for the Engineering Authority of the Armed Forces, which is supervised by army officers and through whom contracts for building stations and projects are passed to the authority.

The leak discloses that Kadi grants EGP2m (about $127,000) to Ali for every project she passes on to him. It also indicates that all these projects are then passed to the army without being put out to public tender.

The leak also reveals that the major-general is a partner in a law and legal consultations firm. He can be heard saying that he "intentionally puts the names of officers and major- generals in the contracts with the aim of intimidating those who object to them".

According to Sharif, the bribery and corruption heard in the leak amount to EGP 68m (around $4.3m).

Sharif also focused on Kadi’s reference in the leak to the theft of 160 antiquities by officers during excavation and construction work at a park in Alexandria.

Turkey bans books in Syria offensive to the prophet

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced the suspension of the distribution of textbooks for children in northern Syria which contain depictions of Prophet Muhammad.

He announced "the start of necessary investigations about those responsible for these books", Arabi21 reported.

During a consultation with muftis in Ankara, Erdogan described these textbooks, which were published in Turkey, as a "disgrace" for containing drawings that could be interpreted as a personification of the prophet. 

He expressed his deep sadness over the incident, asserting that he will personally pursue accountability for those responsible.

The book was distributed by the Turkish Ministry of Education to schools in northern Syria, but infuriated residents and activists, who considered it a religious offence. Some had warned of protests, and copies of the book were torched in the town of Jarablus.

Anger in Sudan after closure of radio station

Dozens of Sudanese journalists on Wednesday organised a sit-in in front of the headquarters of Hala 96 radio station, to protest against the military's decision to close it down, according to the Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper.

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Dozens of journalists gathered near the building, carrying banners reading "Silencing radio stations... a loss of truth" and "No to silencing mouths".

Notably, the protest was attended by journalist Maher Abu al-Gokh, director of news and political affairs at Sudan's state television. Gokh spent nearly a month in prison before being released a few days ago.

Hala 96 Radio is one of the private radio stations which have played a supportive role in the Sudanese revolution, when mass protests swept across the country and ultimately ousted longtime ruler Omar Hassan al-Bashir in 2018. The decision to close the station without a court ruling comes as punishment for the station's political stance, according to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

Protests have raged in Sudan since the military, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, seized power and detained Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok on 25 October - upending two years of a democratic transition aimed at establishing civilian rule in the country.

Burhan was reinstated following a deal he struck with military coup leaders, in a move condemned as a betrayal by Sudanese protesters.

*Arabic press review is a digest of news reports not independently verified as accurate by Middle East Eye

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