Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hawass faces criticisms about his job, ties to Mubarak

Washington Post (Philip Kennicott)

After two months of revolution and recrimination, which has seen him in and out of power, he is madly multitasking: Struggling to preserve ancient sites from theft and the encroachment of illegal construction, while working just as frantically to preserve his power base in a wildly shifting political landscape.

“I am not from the old regime,” Hawass says.

On March 3, with angry young archaeologists calling for his head, Hawass resigned from the top ministerial position given to him by now-deposed president Hosni Mubarak. That job not only made him powerful in Egypt, it also gave him sway over the careers of international archaeologists who work in this land of pyramids, temples, churches and mosques. But 27 days later, Hawass was put back in charge, because, he argues, no one else can do the job.

His position is far from secure. On Sunday, a criminal court convicted him for ignoring an earlier civil judgment brought against his ministry in a case involving concession contracts at the Egyptian Museum. It is likely only the first step in a protracted legal battle, and the sentence — a year in jail, loss of his post and a fine — hasn’t been enforced.

The ugly web of controversy in which he is embroiled, however, goes well beyond this latest contretemps, which Hawass describes as no more than a misunderstanding.

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