CAIRO // A leading rights activist noted for opposing the hereditary succession of power in Egypt denied yesterday that he had abandoned his principles and backed Gamal Mubarak for the presidency. Saad Eddin Ibrahim insisted he signed a petition saying that the president Hosni Mubarak's son has the right to seek the presidency in 2011 "as a matter of principle", not as an endorsement of his candidacy. Mr Ibrahim, a well-known sociologist and rights activist, met Magdi el Kordi, the head of the Popular Coalition to Support Gamal Mubarak for Presidential Elections, on Sunday.
He was photographed signing the petition, which asks Mr Mubarak to run in 2011 "for the sake of political, economic and social reform and in order for the people to rule themselves". Opponents accuse Mr Ibrahim of abandoning his principles. "Saad has harmed his reputation and undermined his credibility," said George Ishaq, a leader with the National Association for Change, headed by Mohamed ElBaradei, also a possible presidential candidate. "Why did he sell out and give up all his history in a minute? To come back and live in Egypt? It's pathetic."
But Mr Ibrahim denied that he was endorsing Mr Mubarak, 46, for president. "I signed for Gamal's right to nominate himself in all innocence … I signed in support of Gamal's right to run as an Egyptian citizen, as a matter of principle," Mr Ibrahim said yesterday before returning to the United States, where he teaches at Harvard University. However, Mr el Kordi said yesterday: "Saad Eddin Ibrahim signed a petition calling for Gamal Mubarak to become president. There is no misunderstanding about that. It's a great victory for our campaign to win someone like Saad." In response, Mr Ibrahim's Ibn Khaldoun Centre for Development Studies in Cairo issued a statement accusing Mr el Kordi's coalition of "misleading public opinion".
"How could any sensible person believe that I'm so naive to support a person who didn't announce his candidacy, didn't reveal his platform, beside the fact that he has limited, almost lacking executive practical experience?" Mr Ibrahim said in the statement. Mr Ibrahim, 71, warned in a series of articles in 2000 that the Egyptian republic risked reverting to a monarchy if Mr Mubarak were to succeed his father. The articles coincided with Mr Mubarak's return to Egypt that year after working in London as a banker. Once he returned to Egypt, he rose swiftly in the ranks of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), which is headed by his 82-year-old father. After the critical articles were published, Mr Ibrahim was arrested and charged with embezzlement and tarnishing Egypt's image. He was released from prison in March 2003. His treatment has strained the relationship between Egypt and the United States. Mr Ibrahim is married to an American and has US citizenship. Mr Ibrahim's problems with the regime began in 1994 when authorities banned a conference at his Ibn Khaldoun centre dealing with the status of Egypt's Christians. Shortly after that, he visited Israel, thereby triggering a media campaign against him for being a "normaliser". Mr el Kordi started his Mubarak-for-president campaign by plastering posters of him throughout the country last month. He also started collecting signatures for a petition supporting Mr Mubarak two weeks ago. He said he has collected 100,000 signatures so far. Hosni Mubarak has not announced yet whether he will run in 2011 and Gamal Mubarak has not commented on the race. The NDP has said it has nothing to do with Mr el Kordi's campaign. firstname.lastname@example.org