Freezing Gamal Eid’s Assets Means Freezing Money for Egypt’s Most-needed Libraries

A Cairo court adjourned yesterday — in the case against Gamal Eid, Hossam Baghat, and “at least two others” — after the defendants, some unnamed, didn’t show up in court:

The at-risk al-Karama Libraries.

The defendants’ assets were frozen on Thursday after the Cairo Criminal Court reopened a 2011 case against the heads of several NGOs, alleging the defendants had received a total of $1.5 million in “illegal funds from foreign entities.”

Gamal Eid, founder of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), did indeed recieve some 333,000 Euro in 2011, when he was named co-winner of the Roland Berger Foundation Human Dignity Award for “for waging a long and successful struggle for freedom of expression and press freedom in Egypt.”

Eid said in an interview with Veto that this award accounts for the moneys in his frozen bank account, which has been used to establish and fund libraries in six working-class neighborhoods (pictured above).

Egypt’s 90 million-some inhabitants are vastly underserved by the country’s current public-library infrastructure, even in wealthy Cairo neighborhoods. Indeed, most of Egypt’s library money has gone to large showpieces, like the giant Alexandria library, rather than small community institutions. Eid’s libraries, which are placed in working-class neighborhoods, serve a particularly important role.

Eid explained why he was using the money for libraries in 2013, saying “we decided that the public libraries are the best we could provide for people. Whenever you provide the citizen, regardless of his age, with a book, it will be beneficial to them.”

The libraries — called the Karama Public Libraries —  aren’t glamorous, like the eleven-floor Biblioteca Alexandrina, which reportedly cost upwards of $200 million. But they have provided cultural, educational, and arts’ services to its many visitors in neighborhoods like Dar as-Salaam, one of the most crowded in the capital.

Eid said on Twitter yesterday that he hoped, if it was necessary, that others would help support the libraries — which he called one of the best things to have come out of the protests that began on the 25th of January, 2011.

Both Eid and Baghat, founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, independently discovered there were travel bans against them last month when they tried to board flights, according to news reports. They had not previously been notified of judicial orders and were not given any reasons for the bans. Both of their defense lawyers said in court yesterday that they had received no information about the freezing of their assets, or the case against them, outside of what was in the media.

According to Ahram Online, the case will be back in session March 24.

1 Comment

  1. I hope others support the libraries too. This is an applaudable development.

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