ElBaradei claims 'smear campaign'

Egyptian reformer accuses government of publishing Facebook photos of his daughter in a swimsuit.

    Mohamed ElBaradei said the publication of his daughter's swimsuit photos were part of a 'smear campaign' [EPA]

    Mohamed ElBaradei, the former UN nuclear watchdog chief, has accused the Egyptian government of publishing pictures of his daughter in a swimsuit in response to his call for democratic reforms in the country, a newspaper has reported.

    ElBaradei returned to Egypt earlier this year to begin a campaign calling for electoral reform and constitutional amendments that would allow a credible candidate to challenge the ruling party in a presidential election to be held next year.

    The Nobel Laureate told the independent Al-Dustor daily newspaper on Saturday that the pictures on Facebook were the government's "usual response" to his calls for reform.

    "Such a campaign is the usual and only response of the regime towards whoever demands democracy, which is the only way for freedom and economic reform and social justice," ElBaradei told the newspaper.

    The more than 30 photos, which were also run by some Egyptian newspapers, were posted under the title: "Secrets of the ElBaradei family."

    Some show his daughter, Laila, in swimsuits at the beach and sitting at events in front of what appeared to be bottles of alcohol.

    Drinking is forbidden in Islam and conservative Muslims would generally consider a woman appearing publicly in a bathing suit to be immodest.

    The Facebook site also shows an image of what it purports is Laila's real profile from the social networking site listing her religious status as agnostic.

    A spokesman for the ruling National Democratic Party said it had no connection to the Facebook campaign, which he called an attempt at "character assassination".

    "I think this is a very grave mistake, violating the privacy of others," said Ali Eddin Helal.

    Brotherhood response

    In response to the publication, a senior Muslim Brotherhood official said the influential Islamist opposition movement was not interested in ElBaradei's personal life.

    "We don't support any personality in particular. We agree on demands for reform and are part of a coalition that has people from different streams, including liberals," said Essam Erian, a Brotherhood politburo member.

    "Of course they will have their own agenda and lives. Our priority is reform."

    ElBaradei, 68, has helped to galvanise the country's opposition since he returned to the country in February.

    The former head of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency received a hostile welcome from the government press, with a leading newspaper alleging he had Swedish citizenship and foreign support.

    Government-controlled media have tried to undermine him by describing him as out of touch with Egyptian society because he lived abroad for many years and accusing him of being a stooge for the United States.

    ElBaradei has ruled out running for presidential elections next year unless the constitution, which places restrictions on independent candidates, is reformed.

    Shortlived campaign

    Earlier this week, posters supporting Egypt's intelligence chief as a candidate in next year's election were removed from Cairo's streets hours after they appeared.

    An independent newspaper was also ordered to pull reports of the campaign for Omar Suleiman, a general, from its pages, officials said on Friday.

    "The state confiscated some 30,000 copies of the newspaper and told the newspaper to not publish the story," Al Jazeera's Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from Cairo, said.

    "So [there] certainly were some very intriguing incidents regarding the political campaigns here in Egypt."

    The swift reaction against the posters, which bore an image of Suleiman in a dark business suit and sunglasses and waving his right hand, appeared to indicate that the campaign backing the enigmatic spy chief had embarrassed the government of Hosni Mubarak, the president.

    Suleiman is a close aide of Mubarak, 82, who has ruled Egypt for nearly 30 years and is still officially the ruling party's candidate in next year's presidential vote.

    The campaigners behind the posters, which dubbed Suleiman the "real alternative," say they oppose a possible succession in which Mubarak passes power to his son, banker-turned-politician Gamal. Both deny that such a plan exists.

    Mubarak has not yet said whether he will stand again. He has ruled since 1981, and allowed only limited political reforms over the past decade.

    He won the country's first multi-candidate presidential election in 2005 with a landslide.

    Critics said the vote was marred by irregularities.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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