December 7, 2021

National Youth Film Festival

Welcome To National Youth Film Festival

Safwan Thabet: Why did the name of the Egyptian businessman, imprisoned on charges of belonging to the Brotherhood, return to the spotlight?

The name of the Egyptian businessman Safwan Thabet returned to the headlines of some local newspapers, causing a media and political uproar through the communication sites and a torrent of mutual accusations between supporters and opponents of the government.

The discussion was renewed this time after the Egyptian Ministry of Interior announced that it had thwarted “a scheme aimed at financing and reviving the Muslim Brotherhood,” saying that it was “linked to the founder and former head of Juhayna Dairy and Juice Company, Safwan Thabet, who is currently imprisoned.”

While a section of commentators and journalists celebrated the authorities’ announcement, others received it with some irony. The debate seemed to rage between the two teams through the hashtag “#Safwan_Thabit_bag”.

What do we know about the case of Safwan Thabet and why the renewed discussion about it?

On Thursday, the Egyptian Ministry of Interior revealed a “plot aimed at using Safwan Thabet companies to transfer and hide the organization’s funds and invest its proceeds for terrorist activities,” adding that it “found $8.4 million and ammunition in a residential apartment in Giza Governorate,” according to an official statement.

In the same statement, the Ministry of Interior announced the arrest of Yahya Mahran, whom it described as “one of the main arms of the imprisoned Brotherhood leader Safwan Thabet.”

The Ministry of Interior’s announcement comes two days after Amnesty International issued a statement accusing the Egyptian authorities of “detaining Safwan Thabet and his son in conditions that amount to torture, after they refused to give up their company’s assets.”

The organization said in its statement that “the authorities were unable to provide evidence of the two men’s affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood,” accusing the government of “abusing anti-terror laws to suppress political opposition and that it is now using the same method to target businessmen.”

On the other hand, Reuters reported that Thabet’s family “refuted the accusations leveled against it through posts that it published on social media.”

Controversy and questions via “#Safwan_ Thabet Bag”

As soon as the announcement of the Egyptian Ministry of Interior was published, the name of Safwan Thabet jumped to the top of the list of the most searched topics in Egypt for a few hours. The hashtag “#Safwan_Thabit” was also widely used on Twitter.

The hashtag was initially used to praise the efforts of the security services in protecting the country from what some described as the “danger of terrorist groups”, then it soon turned into a hashtag that also included tweets who criticized the official version of the well-known businessman’s case.

In the same context, Egyptian news pages circulated a video clip that they said “appears at the moment bags were found stacked with money inside an apartment belonging to one of Thabet’s assistants.”

Tweeters celebrated the clip as “evidence documenting the abort of the Brotherhood’s plans.”

On the other hand, others mocked the content of the video and described it as “fabricated”, saying that “the government’s recent steps are nothing but ridiculous attempts to respond to Amnesty International’s statement regarding the arrest of Safwan Thabet.”

Activists claim that the international organization’s statement “revealed the confusion of the government and revealed the scenes of what is happening between Juhayna Company and the Egyptian government, and the role of the military economy in this case.”

While others resorted to caricatures and scenes excerpted from films to comment on the case and expose the opposing team.

Some of the tweeters accuse the opponents of using the issue to distort the image of the government, and some blame “entities affiliated with the government and describe their positions towards Juhayna and Safwan Thabet as contradictory.”

Who is Safwan Thabet? What is the fate of Juhayna?

In 2015, the Egyptian government froze the personal bank accounts of Juhayna’s chairman, Safwan Thabet, on charges of his association with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Thabet remained president of the company until he was included on the “terrorist lists” in 2017 for three years.

In 2020, Thabet was arrested, and about two months later, his son, Seif El-Din, the company’s CEO and vice-chairman of the board of directors, was taken into custody pending investigations. They are being held in pretrial detention since then.

International media reported that the father of the Egyptian businessman Safwan Thabet and his grandfather were prominent members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and that he is related to Hassan al-Hudaybi, the former general guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, but he has repeatedly denied his affiliation with the group.

In 1983, Thabet founded the Juhayna Company, which later turned into the largest producer of packaged dairy and juices in Egypt.

The company won many awards, some of them during the era of the current Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, according to the company’s website.

According to an article published by Masrawy in 2014, the board of directors of Juhayna decided to donate 50 million pounds to support the “Long Live Egypt” fund.

In late 2020, Juhayna reported that it had reconstituted its board of directors and appointed Saudi Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Daghim as a non-executive chairman of the company’s board of directors.

The company’s capital is currently estimated at 941.1 million Egyptian pounds, according to information on its website, and it is listed on the Egyptian Stock Exchange.