By Heba Fahmy
CAIRO: Ahmed Salah Eldin Ali revealed on Monday that he is the anonymous Egyptian activist a Wikileaks cable suggested had discussed a plan with US officials in 2008 to overthrow Hosni Mubarak and install a parliamentary system before the 2011 presidential elections.
Ali, a translator, said that he was initially a member of the Kefaya Movement for Change and later one of the coordinators of the April 6 Youth Movement before he had a fallout with its general coordinator, Ahmed Maher.
In a conference Monday at the Journalists’ Syndicate, Ali accused April 6 of tarnishing his reputation and libeling him in statements after the spat took place.
Maher, however, denied that Ali was ever an activist with the movement, saying that he merely helped with translating statements and communicating with foreign journalists.
“He misused our trust and claimed that he represented us when in fact he did not,” Maher told Daily News Egypt. “The age limit for members in the April 6 Youth Movement is 35, and Ali is 45.”
“We used to receive foreign aid that we never asked for because of his meetings and talks with US officials,” he added.
Ali denied that he was a “traitor” who ran to the United States for financial support.
“We explained [to US officials] that if we can conduct these plans thoroughly,” Ali said, “we would overthrow this dictatorship without anybody’s help but [we wanted the US] to have a neutral role [in the process].
“The whole world saw the teargas bombs that were thrown at protesters were made in the US and when I was arrested in 2006, my handcuffs were made in the US,” Ali said.
Ali explained that he had called on US members of Congress and the State Department to not support the regime or ignore human rights violations in Egypt once the plan is implemented.
He maintained, however, that he was not responsible for the Jan. 25 revolution.
“We started the first spark and the people did the rest,” Ali said during the press conference.
Ali said he collaborated with General Omar Afify in preparing the people for the uprising which started on Jan. 25.
“We called on people to start protests in different areas earlier than the scheduled time for the protests and have it in the form of marches,” Ali said. “We also called on people to gather in popular areas.”
“But all the people who risked their lives, participated in the marches and got the word out are the ones responsible for this revolution,” Ali said.
Afify, a former member of State Security who now lives in the US, posted a video on YouTube before protests kicked off on Jan. 25 advising people on how to assemble and organize a successful protest.
According to the Wikileaks cables, Ali claimed that the unwritten plan was agreed upon by all opposition groups. Ali, however, denied this in the press conference: “When I discussed the plan, I was with the April 6 Youth Movement…the plan was [masterminded] for the movement.”
“But April 6 never implemented this plan and it never took place,” Ali added. “A different plan was made for Jan. 25.”
Ali added that the US administration confused the agreement between all opposition groups made in 2005 with the unwritten secret plan Ali proposed.
The agreement between opposition groups entails the formation of a transitional government representing different opposition groups, judges, the army and security, in case of a power vacuum in Egypt.
Ali refused to disclose any details regarding the secret plan he proposed to US officials in 2008.
According to a report in the Daily Telegraph about the Wikileaks documents, US Ambassador to Cairo Margaret Scobey questioned whether such an “unrealistic” plot presented by “the April 6 activist” could work, or ever even existed.
However, the Wikileaks documents showed that Ali was satisfied with his meetings in the US and his participation in the “Alliance of Youth Movement’s Summit” in New York.
Ali said during the conference that there were many confrontations between him and members of the US State Department who were against the plan, while others were sympathetic.
“They have in the United States what you call the old guard and new guard [regarding the] State Department and politics in general,” Ali said.
The old guard wants to maintain the status quo and support Mubarak’s dictatorship while ignoring its violations. The new guard is willing to listen and support democracy in Egypt as long as it does not conflict with United States’ best interests.
“I tried to explain to [US officials] that an alternative to the current regime is not necessarily an Islamist regime,” Ali said.
Ali added that the United States’ role during the revolution was “positive” as it pressured Mubarak not to use force against protesters.
Ali will be visiting the US in the coming days to meet with US officials and discuss the current situation in Egypt and what is needed during the revolution.
He denied accusations that he was traveling to the US to ask President Barack Obama for money to support the revolution. “How would I even get to meet Obama?” Ali asked.
“I’m a well-known activist and I’ve been working in politics for a long time, so when I talk to US officials they know I’m talking based on my experience with Egyptian activists,” Ali said, stressing that he wasn’t speaking or negotiating on behalf of the Egyptian people.