Update: Court renews detention of Al-Masry Al-Youm owner Salah Diab

A Giza court renewed the detention of privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper owner Salah Diab for 15 days pending investigations into charges of illegal arms possession.

Diab was arrested along with his son on Sunday morning, the state-owned Al-Ahram reported.

Al-Ahram also reported that a security source stated that they discovered illegal weapons and ammunition in Diab’s villa during Sunday morning’s raid. The source told Al-Ahram that the weapons were purchased after the 2011 revolution and were meant to protect Diab and his family from violence in the neighborhood.

The source stated that Diab and his son were implicated in a case where 11 people were injured during a clash when neighbors attempted to climb the villa walls.

Diab and his son are being held at a Giza police station, the source added.

Publisher Hisham Kassem, co-founder of Al-Masry Al-Youm, who is currently advising the paper on internal structural changes, told Mada Masr that he thought Diab’s arrest may have been caused by the paper’s content.

Al-Masry Al-Youm Editor-in-Chief Mahmoud Mosallam resigned in October, and Mohamed Salah is now transitional editor-in-chief of the paper. Kassem stated that Al-Masry Al-Youm’s coverage has become more balanced and more critical of the state since.

Security forces handcuffed Diab during the raid and leaked pictures to the media, a move which points to the political nature of the arrest, Kassem added. He also condemned the arrest of Diab’s son, Tawfik Diab.

Diab’s son has no involvement in real estate, according to Kassem.

“They seem to be acting out of hysteria,” Kassem said, speculating that Diab’s arrest will have a damaging effect on investments. He is worried that the state is returning to a policy of cracking down on oppositional voices that it has adopted in the past, which he said will ultimately backfire and bring more chaos to the country.

Prosecution froze Diab’s assets on Friday in a case relating to the appropriation of public funds. The public prosecution also froze the assets of Mohamed al-Gammal, the father of Gamal Mubarak’s wife, as well as the properties of ten other businessmen implicated in the case.

The businessmen, including Diab, are accused of appropriating state land at unfair prices from the Agriculture Ministry in order to build tourist resorts, despite a stipulation that this land should be used for agricultural purposes.

Al-Ahram reported that Diab established a company called Sunset Hills Investment in 1995, and then purchased 750 feddans along the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road from the Agriculture Ministry for LE300 per feddan, far below the market price.

Diab and several other businessmen are also accused of wasting water resources to create artificial lakes at tourist resorts, which they are reported to have later sold for billions of pounds.

But lawyer Farid al-Deeb, who represents Diab, told Al-Masry Al-Youm that his arrest is not related to the freeze on his assets and that he only faces charges of arms possession, which Deeb believes are fabricated.

Al-Ahram also alleged that the Agriculture Ministry sold the land to Diab without obtaining the proper legal permits.

Former Agriculture Minister Salah Helal was recently detained in a major corruption case on charges of taking payoffs in exchange for granting licenses for state land.

Diab’s arrest comes after talk show host Tawfik Okasha, known for his support of the state, harshly criticized Diab in one of his recent episodes. Okasha claimed that Al-Masry Al-Youm’s coverage is destructive to the state, and threatened Diab on air.

Okasha asked the Ministry of Interior to hold Diab responsible for violations he claims Diab committed in one of his factories in the food industry.

Diab’s arrest also comes a few days after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi condemned the media for its criticism of the government’s response to the floods in Alexandria.

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