Egypt’s former tourism minister was sentenced on Tuesday to five years in prison for squandering public funds, the second member of deposed president Hosni Mubarak’s cabinet to be jailed for financial misconduct.
A criminal court found Zoheir Garranah guilty of selling public land in Red Sea province below its market value to two businessmen, the court said in a statement. The three were fined more than $49 million and ordered to give back the land.
Egypt’s public prosecutor extended the detention of Mubarak himself by 15 days on Tuesday as an inquiry continues into abuse of public funds and the killing of protesters, a judicial source said.
Mubarak, who has denied the allegations, was first detained on April 13 but has not left a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm e-Sheikh where he was taken after suffering health problems under questioning.
Authorities stepped up security around churches in Cairo on Monday after two days of clashes between minority Christians and Muslims that killed 12 people and highlighted rising inter-faith tensions.
The violence that left a church wrecked by fire and more than 238 people wounded over the weekend was triggered by rumors that Christians had abducted a woman who converted to Islam. The army has said that 190 people arrested after the clashes would be tried in military courts over the violence.
Hundreds of Christians have also staged a sit-in outside the television station in central Cairo calling for Muslims who had killed Copts and burned churches in recent months to be put on trial.
In the northern city of Alexandria, hundreds of Christians blocked the main coastal road to protest the Cairo violence, sparking clashes with drivers.
“Oh Tantawi, where are you? They burned down my church in front of you!” the protesters said in reference to Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who heads the ruling army council.
Members of Egypt’s Christian minority and even some Muslims have blamed the tensions on the emergence of Salafists – followers of a strict interpretation of Islam who were long suppressed by Mubarak’s security forces – while others believe remnants of the Mubarak regime are to blame. Some Christians said they were thinking of leaving the country.
The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group widely regarded as Egypt’s best-organized political force, denounced the violence, as did much of the Egyptian press. A columnist for the independent Al- Masry Al-Youm wrote, “The real problem is the conflict between the civil state and the religious state; the conflict between the moderate Egyptian who believes that religion is for God and the homeland is for all, and the extremist.”
The official Al-Ahram daily editorialized, “What is going on will take Egypt to the abyss of chaos and turn it into another Somalia or a new Afghanistan…. Those who tamper with Egypt’s safety and security… are committing high treason against religion and the revolution.”