Egypt Ex-Spy Chief Barred from Running for President

PHOTO: Omar Suleiman, in Arafats headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah in this May 24, 2004 file photo.Hussein Hussein/Getty Images
Omar Suleiman, in Arafat's headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah in this May 24, 2004 file photo.

Egypt's electoral commission ruled Tuesday that the man who experts say oversaw torture for the Mubarak regime is ineligible to run for president.

Former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman had appealed a government ruling barring him from running for president in the country's upcoming elections. Suleiman, whose candidacy had caused an uproar among both Islamists and secular parties, was among ten would-be presidential candidates who were disqualified by the election commission on technical grounds.

Suleiman served at the top of Egyptian intelligence from 1993 until he was briefly appointed vice president to then-President Hosni Mubarak just days before the regime fell in February 2011. As ABC News reported last year, in that time experts said Suleiman had been America's "point man in Egypt" and was integral to just about every intelligence operation the U.S. conducted there, including the CIA's rendition program, terror suspects were grabbed from one country and delivered by the U.S. to yet another country to be interrogated, often using harsh techniques.

The commission also rejected the appeals of the other nine candidates who had contested their disqualification. Among those barred by Tuesday's decision were two prominent Islamist candidates, Salafi preacher Hazem Salah Abu Ismail and Muslim Brotherhood candidate Khairat Shater.

Shater was disqualified because he would have been running less than six years after his release from prison. The Muslim Brotherhood indicated that it would support Freedom and Justice party leader Muhammad Mursi as a replacement candidate.

Abu Ismail, who had been disqualified because his late mother allegedly held dual U.S.-Egyptian citizenship, is also appealing the commission's decision. Abu Ismail has denied that his mother was a U.S. citizen, saying she had only a green card. Egyptian law requires that candidates, their spouses and parents hold only Egyptian citizenship. The election commission's ruling seemed to contradict a decision by the Cairo administrative court last week that found that his mother was not a U.S. citizen. A lawyer for Abu Ismail told Al Jazeera that disqualifying his candidate would spark "a large crisis" in Egypt.

According to the commission, Suleiman was ineligible for the presidential race because he had not submitted enough endorsing signatures from notables in a specific region of Egypt to qualify as a candidate. Suleiman had appealed his disqualification by presenting additional endorsements. Suleiman reportedly declined comment to Egyptian media on the commission's decision.

There are a total of 13 remaining candidates in the race who have not been disqualified. Chief among them are Amr Mousa, Mubarak's foreign minister for a decade, Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, a former member and Muslim Brotherhood reformer who was ousted from the party, and Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's last prime minister.

Egypt's presidential election is expected to be held on May 22 and 23 with a final list of candidates expected to be released by April 26. The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties hold 70 percent of the seats in Egypt's parliament.

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