CAIRO: The president of the dissolved administrative board of Cairo University s Staff Club said yesterday that he is optimistic that the decision to dissolve the board will be quashed in court.
Speaking during a press conference held at the Club s Cairo headquarters on Wednesday, Adel Abdel Gawwad insisted that the decision to dissolve the recently-elected board because of administrative irregularities in the election process was “merely an excuse.
Abdel Gawwad listed the titles of a dozen publications issued by the Club on national and regional political matters such as Israel s offensive on Gaza.
He said that these publications, together with the Club s political activity “are the real problem.
“The Club has always been politically active. Our members have led the movement for university reform and we have crossed the Rafah border and gone to Gaza, Abdel Gawwad said.
“Universities are not supposed to be open to free opinion. They should be open to one opinion only, and we all know what that opinion is, the Cairo University professor continued.
A decree dissolving the Club s administrative board was issued by Giza Governor Said Abdel Aziz earlier this month, on the grounds that procedural irregularities during the Club s April elections invalidated the results.
Specifically, the decree states that not all of the Club s members received invitations sent by registered mail to attend the April 24, 2009 general assembly meeting during which the elections took place. The dispute between the dissolved administrative board and the Ministry of Social Solidarity – which under Egyptian law oversees the affairs of non-governmental organizations – hinges on this point.
“The law states that registered mail invitations must be sent to all Club members. However, it costs LE 5 to send a registered letter which means that if we sent a letter to all 15,000 members it would cost the Club LE 75,000 – a huge sum. Many of these letters will in any case be ignored by members who aren t in Cairo or aren t involved in Club activity, Abdel Gawwad told the press conference.
“Before the elections we sought the advice of legal experts about whether we are obliged to send registered mail invitations to all members, or just to members who have paid their membership fees. Lawyers assured us that it is sufficient to send invitations to paid-up members, which is what we did.
Abdel Gawwad described the case against the Club as “meaningless.
He pointed out that the Club had sent a letter to the Ministry of Social Solidarity detailing election arrangements in advance of the elections. The ministry, he says, issued objections 65 days after the letter was sent – despite being legally obligated to issue objections within 10 days.
He also cited the timing of the decree – implemented during Ramadan when “the university is practically empty – to support his contention that the decision to dissolve the administrative board was not taken by the Ministry of Social Solidarity or the Giza governor, but rather by “a higher executive power.
Both university students and professors allege widespread interference in all aspects of university life – and in particular political activity – by interior ministry security bodies stationed on campus.
When asked, Abdel Gawwad said that the Club had not received direct threats. He went on to say, however, that government involvement in the decision to dissolve the administrative board is “self-evident, saying “we all know how things work in Egypt. The government has succeeded in putting in place a policeman for every citizen.
Adel Mabrouk, the Cairo University professor appointed by the Giza governor to take over Club affairs, will begin his work on Saturday.
Marbouk is charged with organizing fresh Club elections scheduled in three months time.
Abdel Gawwad explained that two court cases are currently being heard; one against the Ministry of Social Solidarity’s refusal to acknowledge April’s election results and another, more recently-lodged case, against the dissolution decree issued by the Giza governor.
A hearing in the first case is scheduled for Sept.28, 2009.
Abdel Gawwad told Daily News Egypt that he expects the administrative judiciary hearing the case to rule in the Club’s favor.
He was also optimistic that a hearing in the second case would be scheduled as soon as possible given the case’s urgency.
“We will respect and abide by whatever verdict the judiciary issues, Abdel Gawwad said.
The Cairo University Staff Club represents teaching staff’s interests in the absence of an official union.
Some of its members have been active in the March 9 Movement, which came together in March 2003 to protest the US invasion of Iraq and which now presses for university autonomy and academic freedom.