US embassy cable - 05CAIRO2596

EGYPT: UPDATE ON TERRORISM CASES

Identifier: 05CAIRO2596
Wikileaks: View 05CAIRO2596 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Cairo
Created: 2005-04-04 16:06:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PTER PHUM ASEC IR EG
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 002596 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/04/2030 
TAGS: PTER, PHUM, ASEC, IR, EG 
SUBJECT: EGYPT:  UPDATE ON TERRORISM CASES 
 
REF: A. A: CAIRO 1978 
 
     B. B: 04 CAIRO 8967 
     C. C: 04 CAIRO 8594 
     D. D: 04 CAIRO 8195 
     E. E: 04 CAIRO 7851 
 
Classified by Charge Gordon Gray for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
------- 
Summary 
------- 
 
1. (C) An emergency court in Cairo convicted and sentenced on 
March 28 an Egyptian national and an Iranian diplomat (the 
latter in absentia) on charges of involvement in both a 2004 
act of terrorism in Saudi Arabia and in conspiring to commit 
acts of terrorism in Egypt, including planning an 
assassination attempt against President Mubarak.  Separately, 
on March 30, Egypt's Public Prosecutor announced the 
indictment of three Egyptians (two of whom are in custody) 
for their involvement in the October 7 terrorist attacks in 
and around the Sinai resort of Taba which killed 34.  While 
the indictments represent progress in the Taba investigation, 
the GOE's earlier assertions that it had uncovered the full 
extent of the conspiracy remain in doubt, particularly in the 
context of the continuing detention of a disputed number of 
persons, mainly of Bedouin origin, in the Sinai.  End 
summary. 
 
---------------------------- 
Iranian Destabilization Plot 
---------------------------- 
 
2. (U) On March 28, following a brief trial, an emergency 
court convened in Cairo convicted and sentenced an Egyptian 
national and an Iranian diplomat for planning and conspiring 
to commit acts of terrorism (see ref B for more background). 
The Egyptian, Mahmoud Eid Mohammed Dabbous, was sentenced to 
a total of 35 years in maximum security prison.  Dabbous 
received 10 years for his role in a May 2004 attack on a 
petrochemical plant in Saudi Arabia and 25 years for plotting 
to assassinate President Mubarak and spying for a foreign 
power (Iran). 
 
3. (U) The Iranian, Mohammed Reda Hussein Dawst was convicted 
and sentenced (in absentia) to 25 years for espionage. 
Prosecutors alleged that Dawst was an operative of the 
Iranian Revolutionary Guard and had recruited Dabbous to 
conduct surveillance and planning for potential terrorist 
operations in Egypt aimed at destabilizing the country 
including the assassination of President Mubarak. 
 
4. (C) Dabbous's lawyers alleged that their defendant's 
confessions had been made under torture and duress, but these 
claims were discounted by the judges. The three judge panel 
also denied defense motions to call witnesses from Saudi 
Arabia. 
 
5. (U) Egyptian diplomats quoted in the Cairo media said that 
the case had damaged a tentative thaw between Egypt and Iran, 
which severed diplomatic ties in 1979.  Also according to 
media accounts, the Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned the 
head of the Egyptian interests section in Teheran to protest 
the GOE's trial and conviction of an Iranian diplomat, 
reportedly terming the move "irresponsible." 
 
--------------------------- 
Three Taba Suspects Charged 
--------------------------- 
 
6. (SBU) Separately, on March 30, Maher Abdel Wahed, Egypt's 
public prosecutor, announced to the media that he was 
referring to trial three suspects in the October 7, 2004 
bombings in and near the resort of Taba, on the Sinai's 
border with Israel, which left 34 persons dead.   Those 
facing trial are Muhammad Gayez Sabah Hussein, Muhammad 
Abdallah Raba', and Muhammad Ahmed Saleh Feleifal, who is 
still at large.  The prosecutor added that three others named 
earlier as suspects were being released for insufficient 
evidence.  As is common in terrorism cases, the three will be 
tried in an emergency court, but no trial date has yet been 
announced. 
 
-------------------- 
Flaws in the Process 
-------------------- 
 
7. (C) Though the GOE made a point early on of discussing 
with the public its investigation in some detail, its 
accounts have not been entirely forthcoming.  In its official 
statement of findings (ref E), the Ministry of Interior 
announced on October 25, 2004, that a total of nine suspects 
were involved in the planning and execution of the bombings, 
five of whom were in custody, two of whom died at the scene, 
and two of whom were at large.  The Minister of the Interior, 
in a private meeting with the Ambassador (ref C), declined to 
supplement or add texture to this information. 
 
8. (C) The precision and confidence of the GOE's October 25 
account notwithstanding, several indicators raise questions 
about the ostensibly definitive findings.  First, two 
shootouts near Ra's Sidr, on the west coast of the Sinai, one 
in late January and one in early February, left dead three 
"armed bedouin militants" identified in the media as suspects 
in the Taba bombings.  Media reports also quoted security 
sources as saying they were in pursuit of three other wanted 
militants in the area.  The three dead in clashes, and the 
three still being pursued, makes six wanted militants, four 
more than the two the government said were still at large in 
October. 
 
9. (C) The government's information-gathering procedures in 
the course of its investigation raise further doubt about the 
finality of the government's October 25 account, not to 
mention serious human rights concerns.  New York-based Human 
Rights Watch, and the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, HRW's 
Egyptian collaborators, have charged that up to 2400 persons 
were detained by the GOE for questioning, and HRW charged 
that as recently as February, hundreds remained in custody 
(ref A).  HRW also asserted that many of the detainees were 
subject to mistreatment and abuse.  (Comment:  Tensions 
between the GOE and Bedouins are not new but have clearly 
been exacerbated in the wake of this investigation.  End 
comment.) 
 
10. (C) The GOE challenged HRW's figures, but did not 
categorically deny either mass arrests or the prolonged 
detention of a significant number of persons.  A surprisingly 
resilient series of weekly demonstrations by female relatives 
of detainees continued through March, attracting media 
attention and no doubt embarrassing the GOE, which released 
several small batches of detainees during the month.  While 
no one knows exactly how many remain in custody as of early 
April, it is difficult to reconcile the GOE's October 
assertions - that a total of nine people were involved in the 
bombing, and not connected to a wider terror network inside 
Egypt - with the significant prolonged detentions. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
11. (C) The public nature of the Iranian trial indicates a 
GOE desire to send a message to Teheran that a diplomatic 
rapprochement is not in the cards.  The Taba bombing 
indictments indicate a GOE desire to close out the matter, 
but as discussed above the facts of the case will make a 
convincingly neat wrap-up difficult to achieve.  End comment. 
 
 
Visit Embassy Cairo's Classified Website: 
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/cairo 
 
You can also access this site through the 
State Department's Classified SIPRNET website. 
 
GRAY 

Latest source of this page is cablebrowser-2, released 2011-10-04