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Jailing of Egyptian dissident amounts to state persecution says human rights group

28 July 2002

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) today described the re-conviction of Saad Eddin Ibrahim and 18 colleagues from the Ibn Khaldun Centre by a State Security Court as a blow against Egyptian democracy. Ibrahim was once again sentenced to seven years imprisonment for receiving donations without prior official permission, disseminating false information damaging to Egypt’s stature abroad and embezzlement.

Minority Rights Group International believe the charges to be politically motivated and a flagrant attempt to suppress the election monitoring work of the Ibn Khaldun Centre and undermine work for minority rights. The prosecutor extensively referred to Professor Ibrahim’s defence of Egypt’s Christian Coptic minority.

MRG’s Director, Mark Lattimer, stated that ‘The pursuit of these political charges against Saad Eddin Ibrahim and his colleagues over two years amounts to state persecution. This ruling sends a message that civil society is not free to operate independently and has serious consequences for democracy and human rights in Egypt.’

Concern has long been raised over the ill health of 63-year-old Professor Ibrahim who is suffering from a neurological condition which requires specialist medical attention unavailable in Egypt. He has been refused leave to travel abroad for treatment.

MRG calls on the U.S., the European Union and the United Nations to petition the Egyptian authorities for the immediate release of Professor Ibrahim, a joint U.S. – Egyptian citizen.

For further information or interview please contact the MRG Press Office on [email protected].

Notes for editors

Professor Ibrahim, a sociologist and human rights activist and his colleagues were originally convicted in May 2001. They had appealed against the original guilty verdicts on procedural grounds, which included the denial of defence access to key documents and the prosecution memorandum, incomplete minutes of trial proceedings, failure of justices to consider all defence documentation and failure of the presiding judge to respond to defence challenges regarding the constitutionality of relevant statutes. The defence had argued that military decree No.4/1992 which bans organisations from receiving foreign funds without government permission is unconstitutional. A retrial was subsequently ordered, which opened on 27 April 2002.