The following are selections from articles which appeared in the Egyptian English weekly, “Al-Ahram” of Al-Ahram Weekly 28th May – 3rd June, 1998

Tourist Killers Unrepentant to the End
by Shaden Shehab

[Heading:] Two brothers, sentenced to death for killing 9 German tourists and their Egyptian driver, were hanged inside a Cairo prison

Saber and Mahmoud Farahat were hanged on Sunday for attacking a tourist bus outside the Egyptian Museum in Tahir Square with firebombs and bullets. Nine Germans and the Egyptian driver were killed in the 18 September [1997] attack.

… Six accomplices were convicted of providing the bus assailants with weapons or instructing them in how to make the primitive bombs they used in the attack. They were sentenced each to between one and 10 years’ imprisonment with hard labour.

… The two brothers showed no regrets…. Saber went first…. clutching a copy of the Holy Qur’an. He told reporters what he had said already during the trial, that he was not a member of any terrorist group, although he sympathised with the ideology of the anti-government Jihad organization.

Asked whether he regretted what he did, Saber responded: “I have no regrets because my action was Jihad for the sake of God.” Reminded that the killing of innocent people was not Jihad, Saber said: “Yes, it is, because they are infidels.”

… The two brothers, upon hearing the death sentence on 30th October [1997], had hugged each other and repeatedly shouted Allahu akbar (God is great). Saber told reporters that a death sentence was like a “feast day”

During the trial, Saber told the reporters that his only regret was that the victims of the attack were not Jews. The attack, he said, was an act of revenge for a cartoon drawn by an Israeli woman depicting the Prophet Mohamed as a pig.

The underground Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiya had hailed the two brothers as Mujahideen and said they “acted in accordance with what their religion and belief dictate.”

… Saber had committed an earlier crime on 27 October 1993 when he opened fire on a group of foreigners inside the coffee shop of the Semiramis Hotel. Two Frenchmen and an American were killed and another American, a Syrian and an Italian were wounded.

Saber was not put on trial at the time because an examination by psychiatrists at the government’s Abbasiya Mental Hospital… confirmed that he was schizophrenic.

… The investigation into the bus attack revealed that Saber used to bribe doctors and nurses to allow him to leave and return at will [to El-Khanka Mental Hospital]…. The head of the mental hospital, Nessim Abdel-Malek, was sentenced to life imprisonment and fined LE4,000 — the estimated total of the bribes he received from Saber. Three male nurses were sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment each, two to five years and three to three years. The three sentenced to 10 years were additionally ordered to pay fines of ranging between LE1,000 and 3,600, also the estimated total of the bribes they received from Saber.

Settling for Provocation
by Graham Usher

[Heading:] As Israeli settlers establish yet more ‘homes’ in the Muslim quarter of [Old City] Jerusalem, Graham Usher reports from an increasingly tense city

One day after Israel commemorated the 31st anniversary of the occupation of East Jerusalem settlers demonstrated the means by which Israel has not only tightened its hold on the city in the intervening years but, should the settlers and others of their ilk get there way, will continue to do so in the future.

… the settlers wasted no time in establishing one more Jewish “fact” to add to the 60 or so properties Muskowitch, or groups financed by him, have acquired in the Muslim Quarter over the last decade. By Tuesday morning the settlers had laid eight cement floors, installed water and electricity and set up seven “temporary homes” to house themselves until the Yeshiva [school] is built. And despite having no municipal permit for the construction, the site was guarded by the Israeli Border Police as well as “private” security agents. A cruel irony: the floors were being laid by Palestinian workers.

The Palestinian leadership was typically slow to react. Apart from the presence of Faisal Husseini, the PLO’s head of Jerusalem affairs, the only protest against the settlers’ actions on Monday came from Israel’s Peace Now movement. But on Tuesday members of the Palestinian Legislative Council voted to suspend its session in Ramallah and go, en masse, to confront Israel’s latest Jewish settlement in Jerusalem. Forcing their way onto the site, scuffles broke out between the PLC members and the Border Police, leaving at least one Palestinian injured and one “temporary home” destroyed.

Calm was eventually restored when the PLC speaker, Ahmed Qrei (Abu Alaa), met with Israel’s Internal Security Minister, Avigdor Kahalani, who announced that a court “restraining order” had been placed on construction in the name of the municipality and Israel’s Antiquities Department. The latter had petitioned that the settlers’ building had already done damage to the ancient wall that rings the Old City.

But no Palestinian will put much stock in a court ruling to right this wrong. Past experiences — such as the Ras Al-Amud settlement last September — suggests a more likely scenario. The settlers will stay put while a court debates the legality of their presence and in the meantime another new settlement will quietly be implanted in the heart of a densely populated Palestinian neighborhood.

King’s Pardon Rebuffed
by Lola Keilani

[Heading:] The jailed independent Islamist opposition figure, Laith Shbeilat, shocked Jordanians when he turned down a royal pardon.

Laith Shbeilat, the leading Islamist opposition figure who earlier this year helped secure the release of Jordanian prisoners held in Iraq, last week rejected King Hussein’s royal pardon, insisting on completing his nine-month prison term if other political prisoners in Jordan were not released.

In a letter sent from jail, Shbeilat said, “I reject the royal pardon” unless it includes ” prisoners who have spent reasonable time in jail and who do not pose a threat to security.” The government did not comment on Shbeilat’s demand.

A former member of parliament and president of the Jordanian Anti-normalization (with Israel) Front, Shbeilat was sentenced to nine months in prison by a military state security court in early May after he was convicted of instigating the pro-Iraqi Ma’an riots in February.

… Shbeilat’s decision embarrassed the presidents of professional syndicates who had asked the king to pardon the opposition figure during a meeting last week. The syndicates, with a membership of 80,000 people, were the major force behind Shbeilat’s campaign to stop the normalization of relations with Israel. Jordan and Israel signed a peace agreement in 1994.

… Shbeilat, a former president of the Jordan Engineers’ Association for three terms, already had been pardoned twice by King Hussein in 1992 and 1996, after being convicted by the State Security Court of treason and insulting the monarch.