Interview with Mohamed Baligh after Military Trial Verdict

Interview with Mohamed Baligh after Military Trial Verdict

Ikhwanweb is publishing a series of interviews conducted with Muslim Brotherhood members who were acquitted from the most notorious military tribunal last April. After some 70 court sessions in a period of fourteen months which observers and media were not allowed to monitor, and after civil courts dropped all charges against defendants and deemed them “politically motivated” the verdict session was held in the absence of the accused and their defense panel who did not even have a copy of the rulings.  Of the 40 defendants, 15 have been acquitted; two have been sentenced to seven years in jail (including Khairat El Shater MB deputy chairman), five to five years, 13 to three years, and five to ten years in absentia.


“We were released from the cell with our tears and memories of one and a half years flashing and streaming in front of us. We were sometimes looking back to the cell wishing that we could take our detained brothers with us and sometimes hurry up in a bid to escape from this heartbreaking scene. We wished that we returned back two days earlier and that the judge acquitted all of us to hear chants of and cheers of joy resonating in the place. But nothing of this happened. We were leaving prison dragging our feet as if we were leaving parts of ourselves inside prison, roiling the happiness of release. After we bid farewell to our convicted brothers, we left as if we were slough off our skins or uprooting ourselves off the ground. I wished I had stayed there for more several days until anguished souls calm down”.

With this emotional beginning Dr. Mohamed Baligh, one of the forty Muslim Brotherhood leaders transferred to the military tribunal on charges of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, described his state and his brothers” after some of them, including him, were released and others were unjustly thrown behind bars on groundless and politically motivated charges.

Dr. Baligh sent through the interview a message from the released MB leaders to the convicted fellow MB leaders,” We call on you to patient and to maintain our reformist path.”

To his family, Dr. Baligh said:” I start with my wife who supported me. She has been one of the pillars of steadfastness as one”s strength stems mainly from those nearer to him. Whenever I see my family at peace, I don”t worry about anything I might face. To my son Ahmed, you have been really a man in the full sense of the word. You as well as Fatema and Roqayya managed to pass this ordeal that added so much to us especially to my wife whom I know very well. I must recognize her favor and impact on me and our children.”


To the Egyptian regime, he said:” you must reconsider the way  you deal with opposition. I don”t definitely mean destructive opposition groups, but I mean reformist powers. You should deal with these reformist powers through dialogue and on the basis of partnership not repression or exclusion. Although the regime adopts detention and unjust long prison sentences, the Muslim Brotherhood has never adopted violence and it will maintain its reformist march legitimately till these injustices are lifted. And despite the regime”s tough fight, the Muslim Brotherhood will persistently continue in its progressive cultural project to build the society.”


His final message was sent to the younger generation of the Muslim Brotherhood, he said:” See these sacrifices offered by the group”s leaders who have offered many sacrifices at the expense of their time, ages and future of their families for the sake of this country.  Their experiences are not old ideas. The group has open channels for dialogue, talks and views. There is no gap or lack of communication or contradiction. This was what we have already felt. Despite the difference in age between us and Mohamed Mahdi Akef, there is no gap or clash of generations. Now you have the Internet and satellite channels while we only had the radio. This is what we seek between us and the coming generations. We do not have dictatorship in our movement.”


The following is Ikhwanweb”s Interview with Dr. Mohamed Baligh:


Ikhwanweb: First of all, how do you see the contradiction in the attitudes of the Egyptian regime that claims that it honors scientists while it illegally detains them?

Baligh: Honoring is not done in the political level. For example, the Doctors” Syndicate selects the ideal doctor according to several factors based on professional factors, plus several other factors like good manners and conduct with superiors, employees, colleagues and patients. From this stems the clear contradiction. How do they honor a person because he is efficient on the professional and social levels (he gives services to his medical institution or any other institution one works in) and they refer him simultaneously to a military tribunal, not even a civilian one?  This is a sabotage of state institutions and a blow to the constitution.


Bizarre Charges


Ikhwanweb: You said there is a charge of sabotage, corruption and destruction to state services. Have you faced such charges?


Baligh: I was charged of joining an outlawed group that adopted terrorism to achieve its targets. The court cited Al-Azhar students athletic performance that the court preferred to call a military parade, and claimed that the group endorsed them. Unfortunately, the incident was misrepresented in the national media and was used to rally and insinuate the public opinion and claim that they are outlawed militias that want to forcefully impose their grip on the community of students and the university, which proved to be nonsense.

We were involved in the case allthough I am a doctor and I work at the Ophthalmology research centre which isn”t related to students. The institute laboratories are research laboratories and are in a hospital which has no students and has no relation with Al-Azhar students. When I asked state security officers why I am put in that case they told me, “our mission is to collect as many MB members as we can and attribute the incident to them.”  

Al-Shams Club


Ikhwanweb: What about the reported personal disagreement between you and a state security officer, leading to listing you in the case?


Baligh: There is no personal disagreement. I lead some social activities at Al-Shams club. We established a group called “Al-Shams Group” which is registered and licensed by the club administration. We meet with members of the group’s founding committee to show them the activities of the group to get the go-ahead to carry out these activities. They include social, entertainment and cultural activities like parties, soccer tournaments, trips and seminars. The group has a specific religious character triggering some problems between us and the security officials that started to curb our movement inside the club, but this was a general attitude against all members of this group.

My first encounter with SSI officer Atef Al Husseini was inside the courtroom, and I had never heard of him before. Any disagreement was with the Al-Shams club”s group and I was its secretary general.

Ikhwanweb: Back to your scientific researches, the absence of a distinguished researcher from his studies for 1 1/2 years, what does it mean and what are the negative results?


Baligh: There was a big impact indeed. The negative effects even extended to other doctors whom I train or supervise their researches. These researches were delayed. Add to this those I am training on carrying out surgeries including laser and others. Although there are distinguished colleagues but undoubtedly the absence of any experienced individual in a small community like Ophthalmology has a serious effect that may include a lag in the scientific progress not only in the Ophthalmology research centre  but in the medical establishment in Egypt in general.


What worsened the situation was that other doctors in other specializations were arrested like me, including Dr. Mahmoud Abu Zeid, Dr. Salah Al Desouki and Dr. Essam Abdul Mohsen. All of them have their significant role in the medical establishment and their detention has definitely led to obstructing its progress.


Spectral Microscope Problem


Ikhwanweb: What is the problem of the spectral microscope?


Baligh: There a device in the Ophthalmology research centre that can anatomize layers of the cornea for living people. This device, the spectral microscope is the only device that can for the first time take sectional image for the cornea. It was bought in 1997. The research institute authorized me to travel to Germany to buy this very important device and I took a drill program on how to use it. This was the first of its kind in Egypt and the Middle East.

I carried out several researches on this device and several PhD students mainly depend on it in their scientific researches. This device has stopped operating since I was arrested. The main problem is that it has a technical glitch and it needs repair which I hope will be done very soon.


Drug Trafficker Acquitted


Ikhawnweb: How have you reacted to your detention, especially that this was the first time to face such a situation?


Baligh: The security forces stormed my house to arrest me but I wasn”t there. I was stunned by myriads of security forces breaking into the clinic and arresting me in front of my patients, employees and trainees. I didn”t know why they were arresting me. Then, I was taken to Nasr City police station and then was moved to Al-Tagamue Al-Khames to appear before the state security police.

I was registered in their records as Mohamed Ali Fathi Solaiman Baligh, a name which is totally different from mine, and the lawyer tried to use this in a bid to drop the case, but his attempt was dismissed.

To show the double standards policy we faced, a female drug trafficker standing trial in the session before mine was acquitted only because the name registered in the case records was incomplete when compared to hers, while my name was completely different from the one registered in my case records but they dismissed it and maintained the trial. My name has no Fathy or Solaiman. However, the case proceeded although the state security officer, the main witness in the case, said that he was following me for 6 months, and I do not know what he was following while he didn”t know my name or birth date.


Contradictory Situations


Ikhwanweb: During the 16 month detention period, what were the toughest situations you faced?


Baligh: The toughest was on the first night as I was arrested from the clinic and it was so cold and I didn”t have anything to cover myself. The cell didn”t have anything and I had to sleep with my fragile body- I have slipped disk and am 50 years old- on the floor. Also, the month I spent in Al-Mahkoum prison was extremely tough on me.


Ikhwanweb: If you were told to enter prison and another one is released instead, whom will you choose?


Baligh: I will choose all of them, particularly Fathi Baghdadi because of his very deteriorating health condition. He has diabetes, high blood pressure, and he had cardiac catheterization days before his detention. He also needs stents or an open heart surgery. I have carried out laser sessions on his eyes two weeks before his detention.


Khairat El-Shater


Ikhwanweb: Who is the one that affected you most in this experience?


Baligh: It was Khairat Al-Shater who has a very strong personality. Although he faced many ordeals and is suffering from diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes and thyroid, in addition to serving seven years in prison, but he has a sense of tranquility and cheerfulness. I was with him in the same cell, and I was the only among the nine in the cell to be acquitted. This made me feel embarrassed as I felt I took a right that the other ones didn”t receive although they deserve it. I lived with them in the same cell for nearly one year and a half, a period that allowed me to get even closer to them. These persons have pure hearts and clean hands and do not deserve such a penalty.


Ikhwanweb: What are your next ambitions?


Baligh: I aspire to be more active in my work for the Muslim Brotherhood. In the past, we feared that they identify us. But we fear nothing now after the military trial. It is now better to speak more clearly. This experience increased our persistence and willingness to continue reforming our country.


Ideal Employee


Ikhwanweb: Don”t you think that people”s fears may curb your ambition? People may deal with you cautiously lest they face the same fate.


Baligh: On the contrary, when I returned to the institute, every one received me very warmly and they even gave me the ideal employee award and I received a reward from the solidarity fund which I had the initiative to establish in the institute. This was a lesson for me: when the one does something good somewhere, he will be rewarded with a good like it.


There is still some kind of fear because they see outward appearances. From outside, matters may appear bigger than their size, but these people certainly bear no negative feelings or enmity towards us. No one of them sees that I deserve such trial. This was proven by the warm welcome and reception from them starting from the institute chairman who asked for the acquittal ruling so that I can be paid my financial dues for past period, and gave me the freedom to choose to return to work at any time.


Ikhwanweb: Does this mean that the Egyptian people”s view towards the Muslim Brotherhood after the trials changed?


Baligh: People know the Muslim Brotherhood very well nowadays. I heard this from very ordinary persons who have no relation with the Muslim Brotherhood. People are now aware of what is happening as it is nowadays totally different from the 1950s and the 1960s when people were chanting “Gamal, kill the Muslim Brotherhood.” Nowadays, even the prison truck officers from highest to lowest ranks were saying:” We know that you are right and innocent, may God support you. You are the hope of Egypt “, even the group assigned with protecting the military trial”s courtroom were saying:” May God support you and help you reach and end this ordeal”.


Ikhwanweb: Don”t you see that there is a contradiction between these feelings that these people feel towards the Muslim Brotherhood and what the security forces did on the verdict day?

Baligh: What happened on the verdict session doesn”t necessarily reflect people”s view towards the Muslim Brotherhood. They feared that pronouncing tough verdicts may spawn clashes between families of detainees and security forces and that the media may broadcast these clashes. They mainly aimed to prevent the media from broadcasting alive these incidents. Correspondents and photographers, cameramen, cameras were seized. It wasn”t a repressive action but it was an attempt to abort leaking any of these incidents to the news agencies or satellite channels.