By Mai Shams El-Din
CAIRO: Two attacks on a presidential hopeful and a lawmaker in less than 24 hours left politicians and observers speculating about secret plots, the security vacuum and the future of the political scene under the threat of violence.
Presidential hopeful Abdel Moneim Abol Fotoh was briefly hospitalized following an attack on his car late Thursday night. On Friday afternoon, MP Hassan El-Brins was rushed to hospital following a car accident, which his party said was intentional.
While opinions were divided whether the accidents were part of a plot targeting both politicians or merely the result of the security vacuum that has been plaguing the country for more than a year, for MP Mohamed El-Beltagy the entity responsible was the same.
“The Ministry of Interior is politically responsible for the security vacuum even if the two accidents have no criminal side,” the Freedom and Justice Party MP told Daily News Egypt Friday.
“Our struggle with the ministry continues inside the People’s Assembly, as we insist on the full restructuring of the ministry and serving justice against whomever committed crimes of torture against the Egyptian people,” he said.
Former presidential hopeful Mohamed ElBaradei slammed the ruling military council and the government for the security vacuum that led to the attack on Abol Fotoh.
“A ruling military council and a government not willing to protect a famous presidential hopeful, not to mention protecting the entire country, are the problem not the solution,” he wrote on his official Twitter account.
Three masked men attacked Abol Fotoh and his driver late Thursday on the Ring Road, his campaign team said on Friday.
The outspoken presidential hopeful was on his way back from a rally at the northern Shebine El-Koom city, the campaign media spokesman Ali Bahnasawy told Daily News Egypt.
A car cut them off and the three assailants, armed with automatic weapons, attacked the driver when the presidential hopeful intervened to save him. The assailants hit them with the butt of the machine guns.
The assailants then left them unconscious on the side of the road after taking off with the car. Both were eventually taken to the hospital after the driver managed to contact a campaign member.
Abol Fotoh refused to stay in the hospital for a recommended 24-hour observation and returned back home Friday morning where he would be under medical supervision for 48 hours. The driver remained at the hospital.
Bahnasawy said that he was not sure whether the attack was a plot against the outspoken presidential hopeful. He said that two campaign members reported that they were asked about Abol Fotoh’s whereabouts and itinerary by two men who claimed to be police officers without showing their IDs.
Bahnasawy also noted that the campaign manager had reported the incident to the police immediately but no action was taken. No police came to the hospital to initiate an investigation or ask Abol Fotoh about the attack.
Bahnasawy said he only received one call from an interior ministry official who asked a general question.
While El-Brins had said he received death threats following a PA report he worked on recommending moving ousted president Hosni Mubarak to the prison hospital, Abol Fotoh is known for his critical views of the ruling military council, criticizing them for mismanaging the transition and calling on them repeatedly over the past year to hand over power to civilian authorities.
PA member and Al-Wasat Party Deputy Head Essam Sultan directly accused the Ministry of Interior of conspiring against Abol Fotoh, adding that the minister knows the attackers and but is afraid of approaching them.
“The minister did not present even one request to the prosecution to inspect houses of suspects [in many accidents] or to tap their phone lines although their names were mentioned in investigation records of so many events like Port Said massacre for example,” Sultan said on his Twitter account.
“[The minister] is monitoring our phones, our homes and our offices without permission from prosecution,” he said, adding that criminal jurisdiction stipulates that when authorities are reluctant to serve justice, it means authorities are either conspiring or know the criminals but fear them.
“It was proven that the minister was reluctant to serve justice [in previous incidents], while authorities were so efficient protecting the elections and the families of members of the ruling military council,” he added.
Official spokesman of the Salafi Al-Nour Party, Nader Bakkar, said that police forces have to serve justice and arrest the assailants immediately.
“What happened cannot pass easily since it is very dangerous and has severe negative political repercussions across the country.”
The Muslim Brotherhood, of which Abol Fotoh was a member, condemned the “criminal” attack.
“It is imperative that the attackers be caught and held accountable for their crime,” the group said in a statement posted online.
“The spike in number of coordinated crimes must be dealt with, and stability and security restored in Egypt by deploying police forces across the country to guarantee the safety of all Egyptians,” it added, wishing Abol Fotoh a speedy recovery.
Abol Fotoh was expelled from the group last year following a disagreement over his decision to enter the presidential race, which the group initially said it would steer away from.
Abol Fotoh previously served as the secretary general of Egypt’s Doctors’ Syndicate and is currently the secretary general of Arab Doctors’ Union.
Presidential hopeful Hamdeen Sabahi condemned the attack as he visited Abol Fotoh at the hospital to show support.
“I wish a speedy recovery for my friend Abol Fotoh. I demand a swift arrest of the attackers to know their real motives,” Sabahi said on his official Twitter account.
Campaign spokesman of Salafi presidential hopeful Hazem Salah Abou Ismail described the assailants as “barbarians who want to assassinate Egypt morally and psychologically.”
“We will not let chaos destroy Egypt. We wish Abol Fotoh a speedy recovery, because Egypt needs honorable people like him,” Mohamed El-Halabawi said.
The attack against Abol Fotoh on the Ring Road is not the first one against politicians and public figures. Independent MP Amr Hamzawy and his wife actress Basma were both attacked and robbed last year near Sixth of October City.
Two of the attackers received two-year prison sentences.
El-Beltagy himself was attacked by a group of thugs who stole his car and money on the Ring Road near Qalyoub. –Additional reporting by Rania Al Malky.