Newspaper article International New York Times

Leaks from Egypt Gain in Credibility ; Unflattering Recordings Suggest Mockery and Manipulation by Leaders

Newspaper article International New York Times

Leaks from Egypt Gain in Credibility ; Unflattering Recordings Suggest Mockery and Manipulation by Leaders

Article excerpt

Recordings appear to show President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's inner circle laughing at Egypt's Persian Gulf patrons and manipulating courts and the news media.

For months, a steady trickle of leaked audio recordings has appeared to offer a rare chance to eavesdrop on embarrassing conversations within the inner circle of army generals around President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt.

Mr. Sisi and the generals can be heard laughing at their Persian Gulf patrons; pulling strings to manipulate the courts, the news media and neighboring countries; and talking about stashing billions of dollars in special military accounts outside the control of the civilian government -- if the recordings are accurate.

Now, some evidence has emerged to suggest they are. In three reports given to the British police, a respected audio forensics firm has found "moderately strong" evidence to authenticate Mr. Sisi's voice on two recordings and the voice of a top general, Mamdouh Shaheen, on another.

There are "no indications" that the recordings were fabricated by splicing together disparate statements out of context, the firm, J.P. French Associates, concluded, calling such editing extremely implausible.

The group that commissioned the reports has a bias: lawyers representing the political party of an ousted president, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. Mr. Sisi, then the top general, removed Mr. Morsi in a military takeover in 2013. The lawyers are trying to use the recordings as evidence in a criminal case in Britain charging the takeover's leaders with torture and other human rights violations.

But many Egyptian intellectuals and Western and Arab diplomats in Cairo say they have already come to accept the recordings as authentic, if only because of the increasingly pro forma nature of the government's denials.

After quickly dismissing the first leaks as fabricated, the government has scarcely bothered to dispute the others. Spokesmen for the president, the Defense Ministry and the Foreign Ministry declined to comment.

Commentators considered sympathetic to Mr. Sisi have shrugged off questions. "Everyone records during the time of chaos," Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, the dean of Egyptian journalists, who was former President Gamal Abdel Nasser's confidant, said of the leaks in a television interview a few months ago.

All of the leaks appear to have been recorded in the office of Gen. Abbas Kamel, a top aide to Mr. Sisi, during a roughly 12-month period preceding Mr. Sisi's election as president last year. All the leaks save one mention events after Mr. Morsi's military ouster, and most have been released through Islamist satellite networks based abroad.

The disclosures have largely been ignored by the Egyptian news media. The privately owned news outlets have continued to cheer for Mr. …

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