|Egyptian oil minister who signed deal with Israel sentenced to 15 years in jail||
Former oil minister Sameh Fahmy and businessman Hussein Salem were charged with harming the country’s interests by exporting natural gas to Israel for prices lower than those prevailing on world markets at the time, The Associated Press reported.
Salem was tried in absentia. He was on the run for more than a year until he was arrested earlier this year in Spain, where he remains.
Salem sold Mubarak and his family five luxury villas at a fraction of their market value in return for Salem’s landing a lucrative deal to export natural gas to Israel. Mubarak and his sons were found not guilty of corruption charges charge this month because the statute of limitations for the offense had expired.
The former president was convicted and sentenced to life in prison on June 2 for failing to prevent the killing of protesters during last year’s revolution that toppled his 29-year regime. His sons remain in prison, facing charges of insider trading.
According to a $2.5 billion export deal with Tel Aviv, signed in 2005, Israel receives around 40 percent of its gas supply from Egypt at an extremely low price.
For many Egyptians, that deal typified the close ties Mubarak forged with Israel and how his associates benefited financially from such deals.
On March 12, the lower house of the Egyptian parliament unanimously approved a text declaring that Israel is the number one enemy of Egypt and calling for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador and a halt to gas exports to Israel.
Egyptian MPs voted by a show of hands on the text of a report, which was compiled by the Arab Affairs Committee of the People's Assembly (lower house of parliament).
"Revolutionary Egypt will never be a friend, partner or ally of the Zionist entity, which we consider to be the number one enemy of Egypt and the Arab nation," the report declared, adding, "It will deal with that entity as an enemy, and the Egyptian government is hereby called upon to review all its relations and accords with that enemy."
On June, Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court packed with judged appointed by the Mubarak regime dissolved the country's first freely elected parliament. The military council followed by declaring it was now in charge of legislating.
In 1979, Egypt became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel, but was compelled to agree to supply gas to Israel as one of the main economic conditions of the U.S.-sponsored peace deal.
According to the results of an opinion poll conducted by Synovate for Press TV and published on October 3, 2011, an overwhelming majority of Egyptians oppose the terms of the country's gas deal with Israel.
In the poll, seventy-three percent of the respondents said they were opposed to gas exports to Israel. Only 9 percent said they approved of Egypt supplying gas to Israel, and 12 percent had no opinion.
The issue of supplying gas to Israel has always been a contentious topic for Egyptians, who view Israel as an enemy and oppose engaging in any form of business with it.
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