Ruling: Alef Bookstores To Be Taken Over by Egyptian Government

It was announced last Thursday that an “Egyptian governmental committee tasked with appraising and seizing the funds of members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group” was set to confiscate the assets of 16 Brotherhood members or suspected members:

Among these assets is the popular Alef Bookstore chain, with more than 30 branches across Egypt, including Cairo, Giza, Assiut, Ismailia, and Menoufiya.

Alef Bookstore’s parent company is owned by businessman and economist Omar El-Shenety, an American University in Cairo and Columbia Business School graduate who up until recently wrote a column for the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper. El-Shenety’s assets had already been frozen by the committee.

For now, according to a Facebook announcement by Alef Bookstore staffer Alef Emad Adly, the stores remain open and events are going on as planned.

According to Adly, speaking to Al Bawaba, the confiscation order was to “ensure that the bookstore’s shareholders are not members of the Brotherhood.” The bookshops, by the committee’s decree, will now fall under the direction of the state-owned Akhbar al-Youm investment company. This is the same state-run business that’s set to take over Daily News Egypt by the same Thursday decree.

Yesterday, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) condemned the confiscation, which it said was still being contested:

Since 21 June 2014, the Administrative Judiciary Court issued dozens of rulings annulling decisions to seize assets of citizens who are accused of allegedly belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood group. But these rulings haven’t been implemented yet, as they continued to be appealed before the court of urgent matters, which lately handed down rulings upholding the committee’s funds confiscation decisions, and in turn halt the execution of the Administrative Judiciary Court’s rulings. Afterwards, former governor of the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) Hisham Ramez, as being in charge of implementing the confiscation orders, challenged the ruling before the Supreme Constitutional Court, which hasn’t yest issued its decision.

ANHRI, which demanded the decision be immediately repealed, “called on the committee tasked with seizing the managing the MB funds to reveal the charges that require seizing control of ‘Alef’ Bookstore, which has contributed during the last period in enriching the cultural movement in Egypt.”

Many Egyptians clearly share this latter sentiment, as in recent days the Alef Bookstores Facebook page has been flooded with five-star reviews.

The independent newspaper Mada Masr — which also had its website blocked recently by the Egyptian state — reported that they could not reach al-Shenety or an Alef Bookstores representative, but “General Coordinator of the Egyptian Publishers’ Association Sherif Bakr explained that the union is working on making sure the rights of publishers involved with Alef Bookstores are not jeopardized.”