Former minister asks Egypt court: Am I being tried for not being corrupt?


Bassem Ouda, supply minister under Morsi, slammed Sisi's government over Red Sea islands deal

Bassem Ouda (C) holds his young daughter as he addresses court in Cairo on Tuesday (Facebook)
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Last update: 
Thursday 19 May 2016 8:07 UTC

A former Egyptian government minister already under a death sentence sparked an uproar on Tuesday when he used a court session to criticise the current government’s controversial decision to cede control of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

Bassem Ouda, former minister of supply and interior trade under deposed president Mohamed Morsi, was sentenced to death last February for “inciting violence” that killed 10 people near a Cairo mosque during unrest in 2013.

Ouda appeared at a court in Cairo on Tuesday to answer to new charges relating to the events leading up to the Rabaa massacre of August 2013, in which about 1,000 people were killed by security forces as they violently cleared two sit-ins supportive of Morsi.

Along with leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Ouda is accused of crimes including organising an armed gathering, blocking roads and occupying public buildings.

During his appearance, Ouda said that he had no idea what he was in court for, adding that he had attended four sessions without being given any information.

In a video clip taken in the courtroom, Ouda is heard addressing the judge directly, asking why he is being tried.

At one point he interrupts the judge, asking him to “put yourself in my place”.

“Is [it] my crime that I created a new wheat system for farmers, and didn’t take any money for it?” Ouda asked, referring to reforms he enacted while in government.

“Why am I here?” he went on. “I didn’t sell Egyptian islands to another country.”

Ouda’s comments - which were greeted with applause from the public gallery - referenced the current government’s decision last month to cede control of two strategic Red Sea islands to key ally Saudi Arabia.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi insists that the islands were never Egyptian property and that his decision simply returned them to their rightful owners.

The decision, however, sparked mass protests, with demonstrators accusing Sisi of “selling” Egyptian sovereign land in exchange for Saudi financial aid.

Ouda spoke while holding his young daughter in his arms, after the judge allowed the girl to cross the court and embrace her father.

A video of the moment has since gone viral in Egypt and beyond, with a clip racking up nearly two million views in less than 24 hours.

Translation: It’s as if he is trying them. Bassem Ouda, a free man, facing the carnage of a tyrannous state