Furore at LSE as Mubarak-era minister turns up at lecture
Politician wanted in Cairo slips out of back door after he is spotted at Arab Spring talk
Rob Hastings is Assistant News Editor at The Independent. He has served on the news desk since 2010. While working as a freelance reporter and feature writer he was also published by The Guardian, The Times and the Financial Times.
Tuesday 10 January 2012
A former Egyptian government minister wanted by Interpol and on the run from a 30-year prison sentence in his homeland caused uproar when he was spotted at a lecture at the London School of Economics last night.
The unexpected appearance of Youssef Boutros-Ghali – who was convicted in absentia on charges of corruption and profiteering by a court in Cairo following the revolution there last year – led to the university calling the police, as he made an early exit by a backdoor in the face of audience anger.
Mr Boutros-Ghali, the nephew of the former United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, was a member of Hosni Mubarak's government for six years before the dictator was deposed. He fled the country just days after Mubarak resigned, however, and is understood to have been living in London for months.
The Shadow Justice Minister, Andy Slaughter, demanded to know in June why Mr Boutros-Ghali was being allowed to remain. But the Home Office said it was unable to comment on whether an extradition request had been received from Cairo.
The lecture on Egypt's part in the Arab Spring by Harvard academic Professor Roger Owen had gone quietly until a Q&A session at the end when Dina Makram, an anthropology student from Cairo, pointed out the former finance minister to the audience. "I am amazed at the audacity of this man, this fugitive from justice in Egypt, in sitting here," she told the crowd.
She later told The Independent: "I was enraged and insulted. I was in Tahrir Square during the revolution, I was there when Mubarak fell. It is an insult to every single Egyptian who was in Tahrir Square over the last year that he was sitting comfortably in this lecture theatre tonight."
The LSE was embroiled in controversy last year when it emerged that Saif Gaddafi, the son of the late Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi, had donated £1.5m to its funds. That led to the resignation of Sir Howard Davies as its director. However, the university stressed last night that it was a public lecture and he was not an invited guest. An LSE spokesman said it became concerned about security at the event after "blood-curdling" and "explicitly threatening" remarks were noticed on Twitter.
"Our primary concern before that was security and the safety of everyone there and the man himself," he said. "At that time we weren't aware of the Interpol red notice – that was only made aware to us just as he was driving away. Once we were aware of it we did call the police and let them know."
Alia Moussallam, a 30-year-old PhD student from Cairo, also phoned the police to report Mr Ghali's presence.
"They phoned me back and asked me how I had identified Mr Ghali. I told them that I was Egyptian and that I had also checked the Interpol website and seen his photo there. The police then asked if he was still there and I told them he had been taken out the back door. The police said that they would not be able to do anything until they heard back from Interpol but they would be verifying Mr Ghali's status with them."
An Interpol spokesperson said: "A member country is not obliged to arrest the subject of a red notice.
"It is a matter entirely for the countries concerned."
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