Tags: Human | Rights | Groups | Alarmed | Jailing | Egyptian-American

Human Rights Groups Alarmed At Jailing of Egyptian-American

Wednesday, 23 May 2001 12:00 AM

Saad Eddin Ibrahim, the 62-year-old director of the Ibn Khaldoun Center, was found guilty of accepting unauthorized funds from a foreign source, embezzlement and disseminating false information harmful to Egypt.

Ibrahim, who in the past had reported on the troubled relations between Egypt's Muslim and Christian Coptic communities, had been campaigning to promote voter participation in national parliamentary elections last year.

His non-governmental organization, closed by officials in June, had been planning to monitor the elections.

Twenty-seven other activists, primarily from his NGO and the Egyptian Women Voters' Support Center, were also found guilty on a variety of charges and sentenced to between one and seven years in prison.

"We believe that the charges against Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim were politically motivated," said Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch in a joint statement.

"This trial falls in the context of a number of blows intended to muzzle civil society in Egypt," they said.

Ibrahim, who holds dual American and Egyptian citizenship, was a professor at the American University in Cairo for many years. He is respected in both American and Egyptian academic circles.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the U.S. had been expressing its concerns about the trial process for some time that had "resulted in this verdict."

Kamal Samari, spokesman for Amnesty International, said the verdict was "certainly a surprise" because the trial was so speedy. The defense team was still submitting evidence on Monday when the sentence was handed down, he added.

"It gave us [the impression] that the decision was already made before the trial finished," Samari said by telephone from London.

According to Samari, Egypt passed new legislation during the 1990s limiting freedom of expression and association, through a series of anti-terror, press and civil association and institution laws.

The laws had the effect of restricting activities, membership and funding of non-governmental organizations. As a result, journalists, human rights activists and NGO officials have been targeted, Samari added.

The activists were arrested during July and August last summer and held for days or weeks and then released.

Among the other charges, Ibrahim's center was accused of accepting a $250,000 grant from the European Commission illegally. Some of the funds were used to produce a film, which criticized voter fraud in Egyptian elections in 1995.

Ibrahim, who pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, was quoted by a news agency as saying that the sentence was "politically motivated" and "politically dictated."

"It is a struggle and it will go on. I do not regret anything I stood for," Ibrahim reportedly said as he was being taken off to prison.

Ibrahim's chances for an appeal are limited since any challenge to the verdict in the court in which he was tried can only be based on procedural grounds.

Egypt's human rights record is far from untarnished. Cairo has recently been criticized in the U.S. for strong anti-Semitic sentiments in the state-run press.

It has also come under fire for its treatment of minority Coptic Christians, who are openly persecuted in the majority Islamic country.

(C)

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Saad Eddin Ibrahim, the 62-year-old director of the Ibn Khaldoun Center, was found guilty of accepting unauthorized funds from a foreign source, embezzlement and disseminating false information harmful to Egypt. Ibrahim, who in the past had reported on the troubled...
Human,Rights,Groups,Alarmed,Jailing,Egyptian-American
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2001-00-23
Wednesday, 23 May 2001 12:00 AM
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