A senior New York Times editor on Monday made it clear to Al Arabiya that the American newspaper is standing by a story which suggests that a top Egyptian judge said that she urged army generals to block the Muslim Brotherhood movement from reaching power.
The story (published on July 3, 2012) was based on an interview conducted by the NY Times Cairo bureau chief, David Kirkpatrick, with Tahani el-Gebal, Egypt’s deputy president of the Supreme Constitutional Court.
Egypt’s state prosecutor Abdul Majid Mahmoud on Monday ordered an investigation of el-Gebali based on the NY Times story which suggests that she advised military generals not to transfer powers to civilians before a new constitution is formed.
However, several Egyptian media reports had suggested Judge Gebali claimed the interview with the NY Times “never took place” and that she intended to sue the U.S. paper.
She also reported claimed her comments to Kirkpatrick only bore her response to a U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s statement in which she accused the Egyptian justice as politicized.
Michael Slackman, the New York Times’ Deputy Foreign Editor, however, told Al Arabiya English over the phone that “all the information in the story occurred during an interview between David Kirkpatrick and the judge and his story accurately reflects the interview that he did.”
“All of the information about the interview is reflected in the story, which is both accurate and bare,” Slackman added.
According to the Times report, Gebali said Egypt’s former ruling generals wanted to wait until they knew “who they were handing power to and on what basis.
Judge Gebali also was quoted as saying that she was in contact with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) since May 2011 when liberal and secular powers took to the street of Cairo to demand an end to the military rule. The Muslim Brotherhood movement at the time refused to take part in the demonstrations.
“This changed the vision of the military council,” she was quoted by the Times as saying. “It had thought that the only popular power in the street was the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Gebali reportedly added that she started to help the military council draft a set of binding constitutional rules that would protect it from the oversight of a civilian government.
She also reportedly urged the SCAF to dissolve the democratically-elected parliament, which was dominated by Islamists.
“I knew the elections would bring a majority from the movements of political Islam,” Judge Gebali reportedly told the Times.
“Democracy isn’t only about casting votes; it’s about building a democratic infrastructure. We put the cart in front of the horse,” she was quoted as saying.
Former member of the Egyptian Parliament, Mohamed el-Omda, who had lodged a complaint against Gebali to the state prosecutor, also demanded the questioning of New York Time’s Cairo Bureau Chief Kirkpatrick.
Al Arabiya English tried to obtain a comment from Kirkpatrick, but he deferred all questions relating to the matter to the New York-based Slackman, who is also the paper’s former Cairo Bureau Chief.