Egyptian supporters of Egyptian Salafist presidential candidate Hazem Abu Ismail
Egyptian supporters of Egyptian Salafist presidential candidate Hazem Abu Ismail take part in a sit-in in front of the building of the High Presidential Election Committee in Cairo. © Khaled Desouki - AFP
Egyptian supporters of Egyptian Salafist presidential candidate Hazem Abu Ismail
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Ines bel Aiba, AFP
Last updated: April 18, 2012

Egypt Salafists protest president candidate's ban

Under an orange-tinted sky, supporters of Salafist Hazem Abu Ismail are camped outside the electoral commission in Cairo, protesting his exclusion from Egypt's first post-revolt presidential poll.

Braving a sandstorm as well as a cordon of military and riot police, the roughly 300 Salafists launched the sit-in on Tuesday to demand the handover of documents outlining the reasons their candidate, Abu Ismail, was barred.

Abu Ismail was one of 10 candidates -- out of 23 overall -- who were eliminated because of irregularities in their applications.

He is out of the race because his mother holds US nationality, violating electoral rules which state that all candidates, their parents and their wives must have only Egyptian citizenship.

But to his supporters, he is a "sheikh" who has denied that his mother has another nationality, and they are demanding evidence to prove the commission's decision.

"There was a falsification of documents" to eliminate the candidate, said Osama Sami, a bearded man dressed in a green jacket.

"And if there was fraud this time, then there is likely to be fraud during the presidential election," he charged.

The first round of the presidential election is scheduled for May 23 and 24.

Several other supporters of Abu Ismail also refused to believe in the commission.

"The papers which show that the sheikh's mother was an American were not stamped. They were not official documents," said Karam Fuad Mohammed.

"Let them show us the video in which she has expressed allegiance" to the United States, he demanded, referring to the ceremonies where naturalised US citizens receive their nationality.

"Without that we will not believe," he added, as other protesters around him nodded in agreement.

Several Salafist supporters believe it is a conspiracy against their candidate orchestrated by Egyptian authorities and backed by the United States.

Some demonstrators say they came from Mansura in the Nile Delta region and from as far away as Marsa Matruh on the northwestern coast when they heard late Tuesday about the elimination of Abu Ismail.

Most of them say they are waiting for instructions on whether to continue their protest, maybe at Cairo's now historic Tahrir Square, or to stop.

"Forger, Bagato, forger. You'll end up like Moamer" Kadhafi, the former Libyan leader who was killed in October, shouted one of the demonstrators from a makeshift platform erected in front of the commission and referring to the secretary general of the commission, Hatem Bagato.

Angry demonstrators also vented their fury against the army council ruling Egypt.

"Down with the military! The Egyptian army is ours. The council does not represent us!," they chanted against the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces which has been ruling Egypt since the fall of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

Abu Ismail was showered with praise by his supporters.

"Hazem Abu Ismail is a sincere man who was with us from day one of the revolution," says Abderrahmane Atwa, a 21-year-old student from Mansura.

"He wants to restore the dignity of the people and people should not be afraid. He will apply sharia (Islamic law) gradually. The 'hudud' (physical punishment required by sharia, like cutting of the hands of thieves) will come only at the last."

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