Lawmaker freed in Egypt blood bags scandal


An Egyptian court has freed a ruling party lawmaker jailed for selling defective blood bags to state hospitals, closing a case an analyst said reflected the dysfunction of the country’s justice system.

The decision, issued by Egypt’s Court of Cassation, cancelled a November ruling which had sentenced Hani Surour, a National Democratic Party member who owns a medical supplies company, to three years in prison.

Surour was released on Sunday, state media reported. He had been jailed after turning himself in last year.

Surour had already been acquitted of the same charges in 2008, but the Court of Cassation ordered a retrial after it found the first court had made a mistake carrying out the law, reports Reuters.
“Definitely, this adds to the confusion and the doubts that dominate the public debate in Egypt these days,” said Gamal Soltan, an analyst with Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

He said factional disputes among Egypt’s political and business elite — both of which can count Surour as a member — as well as the sway of media and public opinion over judges were making it harder for courts to function normally in Egypt.
“The case is not closed, even though legally speaking it’s closed,” Soltan added. “It will continue to be debated and there will continue to be doubts about whether this final court ruling is the right one.”

Surour headed parliament’s economic affairs committee and opposition groups had used his first acquittal to criticise President Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, which controls Egypt’s government.

Experts and Health Ministry officials had said the bags provided by Surour’s company Hidelina were substandard and that their contents had been allowed to spoil, endangering the lives of patients.

Surour’s defence argued that the factory where the bags were produced had passed public safety standards, and that any problems with them had resulted from poor storage and handling at the Health Ministry.

Saturday’s ruling also overturned three-year prison sentences for Surour’s sister Nevin, a board member in her brother’s company, and two senior health officials.

Three Hidelina employees who had been sentenced to six months in prison were also acquitted.