The Secretary General of a branch of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Helmy El-Gazzar, went missing.
El-Gazzar disappeared from his suite at the Ritz in Washington, D.C., where he had been invited to speak on a panel with the nephew of Anwar el-Sadat, the former President of Egypt, at the Washington Institute’s Soref Symposium on Thursday.
The Washington Institute, a D.C.-based think tank, had sponsored El-Gazzar and his secretary for entrance visas to the U.S. But El-Gazzar never made it to the panel, and sources told the Washington Free Beacon that he checked out of the Ritz Carlton just before the event without telling anyone.
The Washington Institute paid for El-Gazzar’s hotel suite and his and his secretary’s business class plane tickets to D.C.. A photo obtained by IBTimes shows the credit card receipt for their plane tickets on EgyptAir, which cost $3,997.68. The source asked that the photo not be published.
El-Gazzar, however, claimed via Twitter and Facebook that he paid for his entire stay at the Ritz and the plane tickets. Eric Trager, a fellow at the Washington Institute, denied this. In an email to IBTimes, Trager said the only items El-Gazzar covered himself were two fish burgers and a continental breakfast.
Trager noted that El-Gazzar’s assistant had Trager’s business card and plenty of opportunity to let the institute know that he intended to skip town.
“It is now worth asking how they spent their four days in America, since they disappeared from the conference and left the hotel, but did not leave the country,” he wrote.
El-Gazzar told the Freedom and Justice Party newspaper in Egypt on Friday morning that he chose to withdraw from the conference “to refuse normalization with Israel … and [that] I paid the costs of my travel and my stay in America completely.”
Trager pointed out that if El-Gazzar wanted to avoid contact with Israelis, he could have easily known beforehand that they would be present.
“El-Gazzar was invited to a conference on Middle East policy in Washington, which all sorts of people -- Egyptians, Jordanians, Syrians, Palestinians, Brits, Chinese, Russians, Turks, Iranians, Norwegians, and Israelis -- attended,” he wrote. “Moreover, the program was posted on our website and elsewhere days before he arrived, so it was not a secret that one panel would include an Israeli official.
The Free Beacon speculated that the Muslim Brotherhood may have forced El-Gazzar to cancel his address.
“Ultimately, it [was] a lost opportunity for him to engage the Washington policy community, and the fact that he withdrew because an Israeli was speaking on an entirely different panel demonstrates the Brotherhood's political tactlessness, unprofessionalism and utter lack of realism,” Trager wrote.
Maya covers the U.N., Europe, and the Middle East for IBTimes. She joined the company in July 2012 after having previously worked with DNAinfo.com and Gawker.