Khairat Al-Shater, 10 years in prison
December 14, 2009 marks 10 years of detention for Eng. Khairat Al-Shater, second Deputy Chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood group over different periods of time in Egyptian prisons; his punishment for belonging to the “banned” MB. He is currently serving his most recent sentence, implementing the military ruling of 7 years imprisonment in the case of “Al-Azhar Militia” which is considered the longest period of imprisonment in the longest case of the military courts cases.
Fifty-nine year old Khairat Al-Shater is known by the youth of the MB as the “reformist” and the “supporter of the youth”. He was nominated by many youths to become the successor to the current Chairman and was even encouraged to run for the next presidential elections as the candidate of the MB. The security services believe he is the number two man funding the “banned” group after Yousuf Nada, the MB’s international relations commissioner.
Al-Shater is currently detained in the so-called “Al-Azhar Militia” case where many leaders of the MB were arrested following a semi-militia presentation in which tens of MB students participated in Al-Azhar University late 2006. The MB however have stressed in a statement that this demonstration was a representation of the resistance in the occupied Palestinian territories.
This is the second case in which Al-Shater was tried by a military tribunal. He was delivered a harsh sentence of 7 years which is considered the longest of its kind in Military tribunals; a sentence which was endorsed by the Supreme Military Court.
Al-Shater was first imprisoned during the era of President Mubarak in the early 90’s in the so-called “Salsabil” case where he was sentenced to two years imprisonment. Two years later he was presented for the first time before Military Court where he was again sentenced to five years imprisonment which ended in 2000 during a time where tension was rising high between the MB group and the government in light of the preparations for the legislative elections where he was arrested once again for a third time this time to spend another year. In December 2006 he was arrested again along with 12 other MB leaders in the so-called case of “Al-Azhar Militia”.
A discreet and exceptional military tribunal took place as the number of defendants reached 40. After 70 court hearing 15 detainees were acquitted with a total number of 128 years sentences ranging between 5 to 10 years with el-Shater receiving 7 years in the longest military tribunal in the Egyptian history. On December 14, 2009 Al-Shater completed 3 years of his present sentence, hence completing 10 years in Egyptian prisons during Mubarak’s era.
Despite the absence of Khairat Al-Shater from the MB and the political arena, his name is always among the names nominated for the MB leadership or the Presidential elections in 2011.
Many political analysts predicted that the government’s hostility towards Al-Shater are escalated in attempts to ensure his absence during the MB’s Chairman’s elections in succession of the current MB chairman Mohamed Mahdi Akef who expressed his unwillingness to renew his mandate which finishes by the end of this year. The popularity of Al-Shater has made him a strong nominee for this position among other MB members.
However, a close source to Al-Shater stressed to “Ikhwanweb” that Al-Shater has expressed wishes to withdraw from any leadership position before turning 60.
Al-Shater who was born in 1950 has played a great role in the internal reformist movement as emphasized by Dr. Mohamed Habib, first Deputy-Chairman in a letter he sent to Al-Shater in prison via the privately owned newspaper “Al-Dostour”, in which he stressed the group’s need of Al-Shater stressing that his absence has left a significant gap in the Guidance Bureau.
The Facebook group which is called “we nominate Al-Shater for the presidential elections” calls him to run for president. The political analysts view this as another reason for the authorities to keep Al-Shater imprisoned.
However, his daughter Zahraa denied to “Ikhwanweb” that her father sought this position “If he had really wanted the presidency he would have run in the Parliamentary elections to seek popularity”.
“I asked my father once before he was arrested: what do you think of the president’s successor? And I was surprised when he answered I do not mind if Gamal Mubarak (the Egyptian President’s son) or anyone else came to power. What I wish is that he comes with the good of the people and their welfare in mind. Since that day I always wondered, why Mubarak and his regime tormented a man who never wanted his position, nor hated or refused his son Gamal, Secretary of the Political Committee of the NDP”.
According to sources close to him, Al-Shater refuses to demand release from prison on health grounds despite his worsening health in Tora Prison where he suffers from heart disease, blood pressure, diabetes and varicose veins, as stated in his latest health report.
Al-Shater is classified with others among the reformist group in the MB; he is also considered a reformist with regards to the relation between the MB and the regime since he made efforts to create dialogue with the regime during the years before his detention.
On the level of foreign relations he is known for his connection with the west which was apparent through the English website of “Ikhwanweb” which he established and through which he had connections with research centers in the West.
He sent a direct message to the West urging them to communicate with the Brotherhood through an article entitled “Do not fear us” which was published by his British friends in the “Guardian” newspaper, the article relayed the group’s wishes to be connected with the west and its research centers, intellectuals and people interested in the affairs of the Islamic movement.
This article was written after the Parliamentary elections in 2005 where MB members won a fifth of the 454 seats in Parliament. This victory had raised fears in the West of the increase of political Islam in the Middle East.
He joined the MB group in 1974 after graduating with honours from the Faculty of Engineering, Alexandria University and within a few months he became the person in charge of the student affairs in the MB Administrative Bureau. This resulted in his deprivation of becoming a teaching assistant on the University’s staff. This was one decision among other decisions issued by late President Anwar El-Sadat in 1981. He worked in commerce and business administration and participated in the boards of many companies and banks.
He attained a Masters degree in Engineering and studied social sciences and the affairs of the civil society which enabled him to defend himself many times during trials.
Al-Shater who is a father of 10 and a grandfather of 16 used the time during his imprisonment in obtaining many specialized diplomas and in 1995 became a member of the Executive Guidance Bureau in the Muslim Brotherhood Movement.