Why Did The Regime Detain Khayrat Al Shater?

The declared reasons for detaining Khayrat Al Shater last week are that flimsy; since the man has nothing to do with the militia parade staged by the Azhar University students. Rather, it was a pretext to detain Al Shater once again, as if the security authorities don’t stand seeing Al Shater out of prison, as this is known to anyone who traces his life history.

In spite of his declared post within the Muslim Brotherhood’s Executive Bureau as the Chairman’s second deputy, Al Shater is also regarded as the a main financier of the group, which prompted some to characterize him humorously as the group’s minister of interior or the minister of finance by virtue of his role in financing some of the group’s programs or projects.

Whatever titles bestowed on Al Shater, it is evidence that he is of a caliber within the group although he often keeps a low profile as far as the group’s heated issues are concerned. Therefore, the Egyptian security authorities have always countered troubles when they seek to apprehend him, so they always get him involved in virulently concocted issues with media hype and political controversy to find justifications for detaining him, the recent and most important of which associated with him was the Salsabeel case in 1992, on the basis of which he was thrown behind bars.

Less words more action

Al Shater’s invisibility causes concern to the security authorities, and some see this as a sufficient reason to justify their concern, citing his keeping low profile and his keenness to restrict his appearance in the media to significant occasions as was the case with his interview with Qatari Al Jazeera Channel Television before the parliamentary election last year. In this interview, Al Shater dropped a bombshell when he said that the group is ready to post the names of its members on the internet on condition of safeguarding the members from any manhunt of security crackdowns. By saying this, Al Shater  publicly threw the ball in the regime’s court, a statement construed by figures within the regime that he is the most powerful and suitable man for such a statement although he keeps a low profile. Strangely, it is he also who addressed the world after the MB sweeping win in the parliamentary election in which the group reaped 88 seats in parliament. “There is no need to fear us”, said Al Shater in his statement to The Guardian at the time, calling on the West to not feel scared of the MB’s win in parliamentary election.

Two days after this interview with the Guardian, Al Shater came under scathing criticism by weekly Al Mussawar Magazine which for three consecutive issues published a document bearing the signature of Al Shater and titled” Conquest of Egypt”. The magazine quoted a full text of the document which, the magazine said, presents a full fledged concept as to how to take control of the Egyptian society through two paralleled plan, one is theoretical and the other is a practical one. It was said then that the MB plan was crafted by Al Shater before the presidential election. This document caused a lot of controversy within the group in Egypt and abroad and prompted Al Shater to immediately release a statement to al Araby newspaper in its issue dated December 11, 2005, dismissing the document as groundless and depicting the signature as a falsified one and that the entire story was made up to mar the image of the group. However, the article and the immediate reply on the part of Al Shater shows that the man moves with carefully calculated steps, knowing that such statements are that reckoned with and could trigger a problem with the regime. The regime didn’t detain al Shater or take measures against the MB at the time, which  made many think that there was not such a document and that the story was of the regime’s make to overshadow or raise controversy over the group’s sweeping win with such an all time high number of seats in spite of all obstacles placed in the way of the group.
The real reason for detaining Al Shater

A few days before Al Shater was detained, news agencies leaked a story which many say is the very reason for the authorities ’ fierce campaign of detention against the Muslim Brotherhood’. The story was published by Reuters which quoted sources within the MB group that there is a new tendency within the Executive Bureau advising the group to engage in direct dialogues with officical and popular American quarters as well as negotiating with prominent officials in the US Embassy in Cairo through declared political channels as the group is careful that such meetings be held with knowledge of the state to avoid criticism. The sources named second deputy Chairman Eng. Khayrat Al Shater and Member of MB Executive Bureau Dr. Mohammed Ali Beshr, saying that the two men are strongly standing behind these proposed negotiations, citing their strong relations with international quarters and US figures and officials, especially that one of them, Dr. Beshr stayed in the US for a long time studying, while Al Shater was in Britain for a long time for the same reason; both of them were studying and had strong ties with quarters and officials in both countries.

On its part, the group denied that the incident of Azhar University was behind the detention of Al Shater. Rather, the MB statement said that the detention of Al Shater came within the context of a concocted ,provocative campaign. Aged 56, Al Shater is considered one of the middle aged leadership within the group. He started his political activity with the Socialist Youth Organization when he was in secondary school. After he joined Faculty of Engineering, Alexandria University, he continued his political action and was one of the prominent students who called for change until he was detained together with other activists for four months. Al Shater joined Muslim Brotherhood at a late age compared to the other leaderships. After graduation, he was appointed lecturer at the Faculty of Engineering after he was awarded MSc from Mansoura University in 1981, the same year he was put on the detention list, together with many political trends and figures in Egypt who were  arrested within the context of Sadat’s September detention decisions. But Al Shater was then in London making studies for his PhD. And there he changed his life career, and instead of studying for the PhD, he got down into business and investment and intense activities in the Islamic centers in London. In the Britain- based Islamic centers, he was able to cement his relations with the Muslim Brotherhood or Ikhwan. Back to Cairo in 1986, Al Shater became one of the most prominent elements within the MB group. With another, different, life career, he started business activities with trading in garments, textiles and electric sets, gifts and furniture, making a big fortune which caused troubles to him, to be sentenced for a year in an MB related case known as Salsabeel Case, after the name of his computer company. Two years later, mainly in 1995, he became an MB Executive Bureau member. In the same year he was detained and sentenced to five years before a military court which sentenced him, along with over fifty MB leaderships, for sentences ranging between three and five years in prison. Released in 2000, he was re detained one year later, in 2001, and was sentenced for one year. Then the security authorities detained him for the third time on December 14, 2006, and on the following day, the State Security Prosecution in Nasr City ordered a 15 day provisional detention against Al Shater and other 16 MB leaders in an amorphous case which has yet to be known. At the investigations, Al Shater continued his silence, and the case continues to open a new chapter in the controversial and relentless campaign of the regime against the group.