Yesterday, I tweeted an Arabic report published in Egypt’s newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm (AMAY) about an ongoing court process to deprive Bilal Erdogan, the son of the Turkish president Recep Tayyib Erdogan, from his Egyptian citizenship. The report claimed that Bilal had used the Egyptian passport issued to him by the ousted Egyptian president Morsi to flee to Georgia after a huge corruption scandal went public on Dec. 17, 2013, and hinted that this is enough reason to revoke his citizenship.
Due to the seriousness of the allegations, and the huge interest that my tweet has generated among many Turks, I decided to trace the story to find as many details as possible. Here is what I found:
First, the report seems to be authentic. It was published not only in al-Masry Al-Youm, one of Egypt’s biggest newspapers, but also in other Egyptian outlets. Second, the case is not new. It started in October 2014, when Egyptian lawyer Samir Sabry submitted the case to Egypt’s State Security, citing the Bilal Erdogan case as one of many cases in which the ousted president Mohamed Morsi allegedly abused his legal powers and granted many foreigners Egyptian citizenship. The case was escalated to the General Public Prosecutor to check the authenticity of the documents provided by Lawyer Sabry. The first court session was on the 9th of November 2014.
According to what leaked from those alleged documents, The Egyptian Lawyer Sabry, Bilal Erdogan has an Egyptian passport, in which his residence in Egypt (a legal requirement to be a citizen), is 1st Ahram Street Heliopolis, Cairo. As far as I am aware, no one can have access to these documents except the defendant Bilal Erdogan, or his legal team, and I doubt Turkey has even considered to send a legal team to check the case.
The fact that the court accepted the case indicates that both Egyptian security and judiciary have accepted the authenticity of those documents provided. In other words, any future verdict may not be whether Bilal Erdogan has Egyptian citizenship or not, but whether it is legitimate to revoke his citizenship.
As a consequence, the verdict, regardless of its nature, will be harmful to Morsi. The ousted president is already facing many ongoing legal charges, and has already been sentenced to death for one of them. Piling on more negative verdicts indicates dim prospects for his survival.
Today in Turkey, Bilal Erdogan completely denied the allegations, calling them “slander and lies.” It also stated that Bilal Erdoğan is not an Egyptian citizen and did not use an Egyptian passport to flee to Georgia. Bilal Erdoğan also claimed that the report in al-Masry al-Youm was the doing of the “parallel structure,” a term used in Turkey to vilify the Gülen movement.
Bilal Erdogan has every right to dismiss the allegations against him; however, it is important for him and for everyone else in Turkey to understand that what is going on in Egypt has nothing to do with Turkish domestic politics, but rather to do with the tense and deteriorating relationship between Egypt and Turkey. Moreover, Egyptian Lawyer Samir Sabry is a hard-core anti-Islamist with a record of other legal cases against non-Islamist revolutionaries.
It seems that both Egypt and Turkey are using the case for domestic political reasons. In Egypt, the case is another weapon to demonize Morsi “ the traitor.” The case is clearly part of domestic politics; not even a single report was published about in in English. All reports, and comments were in Arabic. In Turkey, the story has become part of the polarized environment ahead of the election, regardless of its facts and background.
The case is now postponed till next October, and may continue to drag on for years due to the slow bureaucratic nature of the Egyptian justice system. However, any verdict will be controversial and may not reflect the truth of what really happened in 2013 between Bilal Erdogan and Mohamed Morsi.
This case could have a huge impact on the image of the ruling AKP and on that of the Erdogan family. Erdogan persistently says that he does not have any fears and could even go to death for his “cause”. The same argumentation goes for Bilal. The image of the “fearless” powerful man would get a harsh blow. Why fleeing to Georgia when you are innocent? This would be the question automatically generated among the public!