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Zamalek president Murtada Mansour settles angry dispute with Egyptian media

Cairo figurehead bans journalists after letter accuses him of 'unethical excesses' but tensions are relieved when he offers olive branch

Zamalek president Murtada Mansour, centre, has offered an olive branch to Egyptian journalists after initially banning them from the club's facilities. EPA
Zamalek president Murtada Mansour, centre, has offered an olive branch to Egyptian journalists after initially banning them from the club's facilities. EPA

Murtada Mansour, the seemingly untouchable maverick of Egyptian football, was at the centre of yet another public conflict this week after he took offence at open criticism from a rival.

The squabble ignited when Mansour, the president of Cairo powerhouse Zamalek, banned journalists after a letter was published from the club's city rivals, Al Ahly, in which they demanded his parliamentary immunity be lifted so he could be tried for his "unethical excesses".

The letter, a copy of which was sent to President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s office and the Egyptian Football Association, highlighted the pro-government lawmaker's use of foul and abusive language in television interviews. It described his comments as mostly "lies" that questioned "journalists’ integrity and incites divisions".

The Al Ahly letter read: “Recently, the excesses of the Zamalek chairman went beyond all boundaries, while the House of Deputies is meanwhile continuing to refuse to lift his immunity so he can be questioned by prosecutors and be made accountable under the law.

“The House of Deputies is supposed to be the top defender of the rights of all the people, not just the aforementioned member.”

Parliament speaker Ali Abdel Al, an ally of Mansour's and a fellow supporter of the government, has rejected dozens of requests for his immunity to be lifted so that legal proceedings can be taken against him.

During the latest dispute, Mansour claimed that Diaa Rashwan, the head of the State Information Service, owed his position as leader of the journalists’ union to his support in an election held last year.

However, tensions eased on Tuesday when Mansour and Rashwan appeared in a video clip posted online after they met to discuss the conflict. The Zamalek president said he was lifting the ban on journalists and their families from using the club, which hosts a range of other sporting activities, restaurants and leisure facilities.

Mansour conceded: “I was incensed that the journalists’ union wanted to hold a board meeting in Zamalek during the tension between us.

“I was provoked and you know I don’t pay heed to no one,” added Mansour who, in a show of goodwill, said he was offering 250 new club memberships to journalists and their families.

Mansour, a controversial figure in Egyptian politics and a former judge, has routinely threatened critics with voice recordings allegedly touching on their moral integrity.

In 2018, he was suspended for a year by the Confederation of African Football after he alleged that the voting system was corrupt that saw Ahmad Ahmad elected as president.

Last year, Egypt’s National Olympic Committee banned him from attending any competitions involving Zamalek after accusing Mansour of "breaches of ethic and violations of Olympic values".

Zamalek are currently second in the Egyptian Premier League behind Pyramids, with 10 points from four matches.

The last round of league matches were postponed after Al Ahly refused to play any of their fixtures following the Egytpian FA's decision to postpone the highly-anticipated Cairo derby against Zamalek earlier this month on the advice of security officials.

Updated: October 30, 2019 03:02 PM

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