- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 4, 2001

GENEVA — The most senior official to defect from Egypt in recent years has begun a campaign to discredit the regime of President Hosni Mubarak, charging it is riddled with corruption and using torture to silence opponents.
While awaiting political asylum in Switzerland, Mohammed Ghanam, former police colonel and chairman of the Directorate of Legal Research in the Egyptian Interior Ministry, intends to carry his crusade to Belgian courts "against the dictator and his regime of thieves."
In speaking out, Mr. Ghanam joins critics, including leading human rights groups, who have long attacked Mr. Mubarak — the United States' leading ally in the Arab world.
Mr. Ghanam said in an interview that the U.S. Embassy in Cairo "is perfectly aware of the situation" but showed no interest in his story.
Prevented from leaving Egypt for two years and twice injured in mysterious attacks, he was allowed out in May after strong pressure on the Egyptian government by Swiss Ambassador Blaise Gadet and his counselor, Livia Leu.
This, he said, "shows that embassies can do a lot for human rights" if they want to. He described the U.S. disinterest in his cause as "unworthy of a superpower."
In Washington, the Egyptian Embassy dismissed Mr. Ghanam's charges and said he may be looking for a way to remain legally in the West.
"It amazes me that he didn't go to court in Egypt, which is well-known for its independent judicial system," a senior diplomat said.
Mr. Ghanam's story, told in the picture-postcard setting of a Swiss cafe shaded from the summer sun by colorful parasols, is a sordid tale of brutality, officially sanctioned corruption and inhuman prison conditions.
"And there is the proof," he said in halting English, pointing to several thick manila envelopes. One by one he pulled out photocopies of documents in Arabic, which, he said, show that "Mubarak is suppressing opposition by ordering police to use torture."
Mr. Ghanam was removed from the Interior Ministry in 1999 after publishing articles in the opposition press on corruption and torture. He said government censors had stopped one of the articles destined for an English-language weekly published in Cairo.
A soft-spoken man in a perfectly tailored beige suit, he said he was not afraid of Egyptian agents "because they would not risk harming me on Swiss territory," Nonetheless, he said he is followed by mysterious men.
He has chosen a Belgian court to begin his legal action because of Belgium's interest in crimes against human rights, he said.
Referring to the Egyptian president as "a dictator," Mr. Ghanam listed a number of charges that he read out from a prepared handwritten text.
He said Mr. Mubarak "governs Egypt by fear," has "pardoned police officers convicted by courts of murder," and has given "important medals to officers convicted of murder and torture."
Mr. Ghanam estimated there are 20,000 Egyptians currently "under administrative detention," some held without trial for as long as 12 hours.
He described packed prison cells where there is no room for inmates to lie down, and torture sessions including beating, whipping and burning with red-hot iron rods.
He accused some members of Mr. Mubarak's family of selling state property, including priceless antiquities.
Mr. Mubarak, he said, "encourages corruption on a high level to hide the actions of his sons."
He concluded: "I am asking the United States and the European countries which give aid to Egypt to form a committee to evaluate the fortune amassed by Mubarak and his family. The Mubarak era will be known in the history of Egypt as the era of thieves."
Nicholas Kralev contributed to this article from Washington.

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