The "Egyptian chemist"

"Find the chemist" was the headline in the UK tabloid The Sun a few days ago, and he has now been found. I've spent the past several days on the track Magdy Al Nashar and was actually not far from him when he was arrested (although I did not know it then.) There's been a media blitz over this, but one of the more curious aspects is that the Egyptian ministry of interior seems to think he didn't do it.

And they're not the type to entertain much doubt -- more "torture now, ask questions later."

I've done several stories on this as it broke -- in the Times and the Express in the UK (first site asks registration, second doesn't put up its stories) -- and a lot of radio and TV interviews (including for Fox News, which makes me perhaps the first person to have worked both for Fox and Al Jazeera -- if only they knew). The Fox News people in particular were intent on calling this man "very suspicious" and saying he had "sinister unanswered questions about him" and didn't seem to like it too much when I said that prima facie he doesn't seem guilty (even if the fact that he let a bomber use his house certainly had to be explained. The way I see it, not only did he not have a history of connections with Islamist groups, but he had everything to lose. This is a guy who was born dirt poor and through his studies managed to get scholarships to study abroad. Even a bigger indication that it's probably not him is that he chose to return to Egypt, which amounts to self-rendition.

I don't claim to have any answers, these are just impressions. The investigation continues and I'm well know soon what role he had in the London bombings. But some people in the press seem to be jumping to conclusions a bit too soon with little evidence, looking for another Muhammed Atta.

You can read the fairly extensive backgrounder story we wrote about him for Cairo here.
7 Comments

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.