|Shater, top financier of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, could be the country’s first president since Mubarak’s fall [AFP]|
Khairat al-Shater, who was nominated on Saturday by Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood to stand for president, is the group’s key financier and its long-time chief whip.
Described in some Arab media as the Muslim Brotherhood’s “hawk” or “enforcer”, the 61-year-old professor of engineering will be a candidate in the first presidential election in the country since a popular uprising ousted veteran leader Hosni Mubarak in February last year.
Born on May 4, 1950, in the Nile Delta province of Daqahliya, Shater earned an engineering degree from Alexandria University and a master’s in engineering from Mansura University.
He joined the Muslim Brotherhood in 1981, after years as a student activist, and was promoted to its executive bureau, known as the Guidance Council, in 1995.
In a 2005 op-ed in Britain’s Guardian newspaper, Shater urged readers “not to be afraid” of the Muslim Brotherhood, after the banned group clinched one-fifth of the seats in parliament under Mubarak by fielding candidates as “independents”.
“The success of the Muslim Brotherhood should not frighten anybody: we respect the rights of all religious and political groups,” he wrote.
Shater was tried in a military court in 1995 and sentenced to five years in jail on charges of “reviving” the Brotherhood. He was also tried and convicted in 2007, on charges of providing university students with arms and training.
In the most recent case, a military court sentenced him to seven years for terrorism and money laundering, after his assets were frozen.
Shater managed Brotherhood affairs and oversaw his business empire from his prison cell, according to press reports.
Along with Tunisia’s Rachid Ghannouci, Shater was named in Foreign Policy magazine’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers” in December 2011.
The online publication described him as “a media-savvy engineer who became prosperous as a textile and furniture trader, developing a knack for working with foreign investors”.
Shater was released from jail in March 2011, just a month after Mubarak was toppled. Shater’s business empire is said to be the main source of funding for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Egypt’s military has dropped two court convictions against Shater, clearing him to run in the upcoming presidential poll, the movement’s lawyer said on April 1.
Shater said on March 31 that he was resigning as deputy chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood after the group picked him to stand in the presidential election that is scheduled for May 23 and 24.
“After it was decided to field my name in the presidential elections, I can only accept the decision of the Brotherhood. I will therefore resign from my position as deputy chairman,” he said in a statement read out by the Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide, Mohammed Badie.
Reputed to be the organisation’s chief whip and known to be one of its key financiers, Shater wields considerable influence within Egypt’s most powerful and most organised political group, members have said.