Judge aims to restore Egypt’s dignity

An Egyptian judge who exposed corruption in Hosni Mubarak's era says he will work to create jobs and restore Egypt's dignity if elected in the first competitive presidential election.

Hisham al-Bastawisy, 59, says he faced retribution from the Mubarak administration after exposing election rigging in 2005. Harassed by internal security forces, he left Egypt and spent the last two years living in Kuwait.

Now he is home, seeking a role in helping Egypt's recovery from three decades of Mubarak rule ended by the mass revolution that swept him from power in February.

Bastawisy declared his presidential bid this week, becoming the latest high-profile figure to throw his hat into the ring for the election scheduled for later this year by the military council to which Mubarak handed power.

Other prominent candidates so far include Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, former UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei and liberal politician Ayman Nour.

"My most challenging mission, if I won, is to bring security and dignity together to the Egyptian citizen," said Bastawisy during an interview at his Cairo apartment.

Once a political and cultural engine of the Arab world, Egypt's influence diminished under Mubarak, eroding national pride that has been revived by the popular uprising that toppled Mubarak on 11 February.

Political oppression by the Mubarak administration and abuses by his security forces were triggers of the rebellion, together with the bleak economic opportunities for the young in a country of 80 million people.

"I would like to implement an economic system that would consider the social conditions of the majority of Egyptians," said Bastawisy, referring to the poor.

"I will also focus on solving the high rate of unemployment by improving the education system and provide people with better qualifications to meet the demands of the job market," he said.

Measures taken against Bastawisy by the Mubarak administration included a travel ban in 2008.

He was one of a group of judges who launched a campaign in 2005 to demand judicial independence and full judicial oversight of elections. "I was detained and investigated by state security when I joined other judges to document the violations encountered in the Egyptian elections in 2005," Bastawisy said.

"The violations were horrible and they included physical attacks on judges who were supervising ballot stations."

The new interior minister has pledged to reform the police force in line with the demands of the reformists who rose up against Mubarak. The hated State Security Investigative Services has been dissolved.

Bastawisy said the problem was with the political leadership, not the police force.

"The problem of the security agencies were not in the police officers but in the former regime which had asked from them to work in this way without any respect for international human rights laws," he said.

"I would rebuild all of the state institutions to make them based on democracy."

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