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Last Updated: Friday, 30 June 2006, 17:07 GMT 18:07 UK
Mubarak 'solves girl's exam problem'
By Magdi Abdelhadi
Arab affairs analyst, BBC News

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
The official press in Egypt first reported Mubarak's intervention

President Mubarak is reported to have intervened personally in the case of an Egyptian student who failed her secondary school exams after criticising the United States and her own government in an essay.

Reports said President Mubarak had ordered her papers to be re-marked, and the student subsequently passed.

The story of the young student, Alaa Farag Megahed, has been widely reported in the Arab media and was even debated in the Egyptian parliament.

The 15-year-old girl was summoned and questioned by the authorities over whether she was a member of a secret organisation after it emerged that in her exam essay she accused Washington of backing corrupt dictators at the expense of the needs of their people.

As a result, she failed the test.

'Personal gesture'

But now the state-owned daily, al-Ahram wants to reassure its readers that Egypt, despite all appearances, is a democracy.

Under the headline "A personal gesture from Mubarak", the newspaper reported that the president himself had spoken to the young student on the phone and reassured her that she was free to say what she liked.

But the newspaper did not report what the student had written in her essay.

Instead, it quoted the young girl saying how grateful she was to Mr Mubarak and that she had asked him to visit her town in the Nile Delta.

The newspaper report ends with the unattributed phrase "Long Live Mubarak".

The news of Mr Mubarak's intervention comes only days after a prominent newspaper editor, along with one of his reporters, were sentenced to one year in jail for insulting the president.

The paper had reported the efforts of an Egyptian man to sue Mr Mubarak and his family for allegedly squandering foreign aid and turning the republic into a monarchy - a reference to growing suspicion that the president's youngest son, Gamal, is being groomed to succeed the 78-year old president.

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