Egypt’s Head Archeologist Avoids Jail Time

A prosthetic toe in the Cairo Museum. (Image credit: Jacky Finch)

Zahi Hawass will not get jail time for refusing to implement a court ruling about a bookstore inside the Egyptian Museum, according to the Egyptian archaeologist’s blog.

Hawass, the minister of state for antiquities affairs in Egypt, has faced criticism in Egypt for his close ties to the regime of now-deposed president Hosni Mubarak. Shortly after Mubarak stepped down, Hawass resigned in protest of the criticisms; within a month, he accepted a reappointment to his post. [Read: Egypt’s  ‘Indiana Jones’ at Center of Archaeology Uproar]

The current court case, however, derives from more mundane business. According to Ahram Online, the English-language website of Egypt’s largest news organization, the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), now the Ministry of State for Antiquities Affairs (MSAA), opened a bidding process to rent out a bookstore in the Egyptian Museum. The previous renter, a merchant named Farid Attiya, was not allowed to place a bid. According to the MSAA, Attiya constantly paid his rent late and broke his lease.

Attiya filed a lawsuit with an administrative court, which forced the MSAA (then the SCA) to allow him to bid. However, the verdict came too late, a MSAA supervisor told Ahram Online. By the time the court issued its decision, another company had already been chosen.

That’s where Hawass comes in. Because the court verdict was never enacted, Attiya filed a suit in criminal court against Hawass as the head of the SCA. That court announced Sunday (April 17) that Hawass would have to resign his government duties, pay a 1000-pound (168 dollar) fine and serve one year in jail.

However, Hawass announced on his blog today that the Department of Legal Affairs at the MSAA had appealed the decision, and the court had accepted the appeal.

“Due to this decree, I will not serve any jail time, and will remain in my position as Minister of State for Antiquities,” Hawass wrote.

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Stephanie Pappas
Live Science Contributor

Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.