Egypt Lawsuit Seeking to Close Eastern Tobacco Delayed to Feb. 3

A judicial advisory body will review on Feb. 3 a lawsuit seeking the closure of Egypt’s monopoly cigarette maker and a ban on the manufacturing of cigarettes in the country, said Mohamed Salem, the lawyer who filed the suit.

The lawsuit, filed in March 2012, seeks the withdrawal of Eastern Co.’s license to operate and the closure of its plants on grounds the production of cigarettes and the tobacco used in water pipes runs counter to the principles of Islamic law, as stipulated in the new constitution, Salem said by phone today. It also argues that manufacturing should be halted because smoking is harmful to the health, he said.

Cairo-based Eastern said in a statement to the Egyptian Exchange that the hearing was delayed until Feb. 3 to give the parties time to file documents. Officials at the company weren’t immediately available for comment.

“I’m not trying to harm the company or affect the stock market, but at the same time I don’t want anyone else to be hurt” by cigarettes, said Salem, who smoked for a decade before quitting two years ago.

Egypt’s government owns 55 percent of Eastern while a shareholder associate holds 5 percent, according to the company’s website. Public and private companies, banks -- especially investment funds -- and private individuals own the remaining 40 percent.

The advisory body will make a recommendation to the State Council courts on whether to proceed with the lawsuit, Salem said, adding that he filed it in a personal capacity.

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