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Egypt: Grave danger of miscarriage of justice as Ibrahim retrial begins

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The retrial of Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim and colleagues from the Ibn Khaldoun Centre in Cairo, scheduled to resume on 27 April 2002, is likely to lead to a further miscarriage of justice Minority Rights Group International (MRG) warned today.

The original conviction of Dr. Ibrahim and twenty seven colleagues was over-turned by Egypt’s Court of Cassation on 06 February 2002 on procedural grounds. The court ordered a retrial and the release of Dr. Ibrahim and five colleagues who had served over 300 days of prison sentences ranging from two to seven years. The remaining defendants had been given suspended one year sentences.

The retrial will again take place before a State Security Court, where proceedings fall below international standards of fair trial. The appellate court’s explanation for granting an appeal was that the original court had failed to properly examine and evaluate prosecution evidence and defence arguments, including evidence that co-defendants had been pressured to extract confessions. They also ruled that there had been a failure to examine contracts between the European Union and the Ibn Khaldoun Centre before reaching a conviction for unauthorized funding and embezzlement. The European Union itself has insisted that it has no cause for complaint over the terms or use of funds granted to the Ibn Khaldoun Centre.

MRG today again called for all charges to be dropped and stated, ‘The proceedings are an abuse of the justice system for political ends. The Charges against Dr. Ibrahim are an arbitrary use of emergency laws to target free expression.’

Dr. Ibrahim and his co-defendants will face the same charges as were originally filed when the first trial began in late 2000. These include receiving foreign funding without official permission, spreading false information harmful to Egypt’s image abroad and embezzlement. The charges are widely believed by independent observers including Minority Rights Group International to be politically motivated and aimed at disrupting the legitimate work of civil society organizations such as the Ibn Khaldoun Centre within Egypt.

Following medical advice, Dr. Ibrahim has made urgent requests to the Egyptian authorities to allow him to travel outside Egypt in order to obtain specialist treatment for a deteriorating neurological condition affecting his movement. No such permission has yet been granted.

For further information please contact the MRG Press Office on press@minorityrights.org.

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