Lenient sentence against grandson of Egyptian tycoon raises concerns over integrity of judiciary

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The Egyptian Red Sea Criminal Court has sentenced Haitham Abu Ali (son of businessman and influential film producer Kamel Abu Ali) to one year in prison with a suspended sentence and a fine of EGP 1 million.

Abu Ali was accused of having marijuana with the intention of using, and killing the engineer May Iskandar Ishaq, as a result of driving a car under the influence of drugs in the opposite direction in the city of Hurghada. The court considered that the accused crashed into May by mistake, killed the female engineer by his negligence and recklessness, and lacked caution or observance of laws and regulations.

The public prosecution has previously provided evidence and the testimony of five witnesses and the results of its inspection of the accident site, and what was stated in the report of the Narcotic Substances Analysis Department at the Health Affairs Directorate in Hurghada, and the suspect’s admission in the investigations of his drug and alcohol abuse before the accident.

Activists condemned that ruling, considering that it was a very lenient sentence and not commensurate with the gravity of the crime. They confirmed that May’s family refused millions from Abu Ali to waive her rights. Khaled Refat Saleh (a prominent political analyst and the founder of the Taiba Centre for Political Studies) pointed out that this is not the first accident Haitham has had. He commented that: “Justice is only from God.”

The Egyptian Traffic Law stipulates a fine on the driver of the car, ranging from EGP 4,000 to EGP 8,000, and imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months, in the event of driving against the prescribed direction on roads or driving under the influence of drugs. Haitham’s crime goes beyond just driving in the opposite direction or driving while under the influence of drugs. His crime list includes manslaughter, severe injury to an Uber driver, and possession of drugs in his car.

The accident occurred at the beginning of this year on the Sahl Hasheesh road towards the resort of El Gouna. The engineer was returning from her job to her residence in Cairo when Haitham’s car ran her over. Egyptian media ignored the incident in favour of the well-known businessman at a time when friends of the victim tried to turn the crime into a public opinion issue. The injured driver working for Uber, who was travelling with the victim at the time of the collision that killed her, waived his rights before the public prosecution office after receiving EGP 450,000 as compensation from the businessman.

Kamel Abu Ali owns a group of hotels and resorts in Egypt, including 14 tourist villages and three entertainment projects. He owns the Albatros group of companies specialised in tourism and film production. Kamel Abu Ali took over the presidency of Al-Masry Club Al-Port Said in 1997. After the January 25 revolution he was appointed president of Al-Masry Club again. As the club president, he was involved in the famous Port Said Stadium Massacre, which killed 72 Al-Ahly club fans in February 2012, however, no judicial convictions were issued against him.