Punishing Saad El Din Ibrahim
A New Ring in the Chain of Opinion Trials
The Egyptian human rights organizations express their deep concern over the ruling rendered recently by “Al Khalifa Misdemeanor Court” –in absentia- against Dr. Saad El Din Ibrahim, an outstanding defender of human rights and democratic freedoms, professor of sociology, and Director of Ibn Khaldun Center for Developmental Studies. The Court punished Ibrahim with two-year imprisonment sentence with labor and an 10 thousand LE fine to suspend the sentence enforcement. He was condemned of outraging Egypt’s reputation and prestige and of harming national interests. The “whereases” of the ruling were based on a report prepared by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, which referred to his articles regarding the domestic situation in Egypt, published in several prominent American and international newspapers. Those writings requested the American Administration to link the US AID programs granted to the Egyptian government with progress achieved on the track of democratic reform.
The undersigned organizations maintained that punishing Dr. Saad El Din Ibrahim for his opinions represents a notorious feature of a trend aiming at undermining the margin of freedoms and the manifestations of political and societal mobility having been experienced in Egypt for two years now. This state of affairs is quite noticeable in particular in the tendency once again to refer civilians to military courts, besieging journalists and threatening a number of editor-in-chiefs and managing directors of partisan and independent newspapers with prison terms, on top of whom Ibrahim Issa, Wael Al Ibrashi and Adel Hammouda. The latter were accused of similar charges as those pressed against Saad El Din Ibrahim. The last couple of years also witnessed the harassment of human rights organizations, the closure of two such organizations, abusing exceptional competencies by virtue of the Emergency Law to pursue and arrest Internet activists, bloggers and advocates of the 6th of April 2008 strike, in addition to the more stringent trends targeting freedom of satellite broadcast, which were expressed in the harsh restrictions adopted by the League of Arab States in the recent document on the principles and ethics of satellite broadcast, drafted upon an Egyptian government initiative. Those restrictions were exhibited in withdrawing the license granted to a number of satellite channels and the draft law adopted by the Egyptian Ministry of Information, which aims at tightening its grip over the audio-visual broadcast media, including e-broadcast through the Internet.
The undersigned Egyptian organization consider Saad El Din Ibrahim’s trial as an evident proof to the risks of abusing legal provisions inimical to human rights, which the Penal Code is replete with and which are invoked whenever necessary to quell opponents to the ruling regime, opposition to government policies and advocates of human rights and democracy.
Egyptian organizations warn that invoking Article 80 of the Penal Code – which punishes with prison sentences anyone who wantonly broadcasts abroad any false news or information regarding the domestic situation of the country, which would weaken financial trust in the State or its prestige or standing, or anyone practicing in whichever way any activity that might harm the national interests of the State- not only violates freedom of expression and opinion promulgated in the Constitution and Egypt’s obligations ensuing from the Egyptian Government’s ratification of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, but also entails a serious threat to all personnel working in the field of opinion-expression and information, including electronic media or human rights. This is emphatically true if we took into consideration the huge leap forward in communication and information technology, which has practically put an end to the artificial restrictions on ideas, opinions and information inside and outside the countries. Furthermore, the development of the international human rights law guarantees the right of both individuals and non-governmental organizations to criticize practices of their respective governments in various international forums.
The undersigned organizations stress their full solidarity with Dr. Saad EL Din Ibrahim against arbitrary procedures aiming at penalizing him for his opinions regarding the nature of the Egyptian political regime, its practices which are hostile to political and democratic reform, expressed internally and abroad. Meanwhile, they condemn attempts by some – either voluntarily or under government and NDP incitement- to abuse the legitimate right to litigation to file cases of political liability, which have been quite en vogue recently, to crush opponents and sequestrate freedom of opinion, by virtue of penal provisions, which the Egyptian authorities are adamant about, to silence and terrorize their opponents, even though such provisions run counter to their obligations by virtue of international conventions Egypt has ratified.
The Egyptian human rights organizations call upon various forces and movements aspiring for democracy and championing freedom of expression, to withstand this ferocious attack aiming at preventing Egyptians from enjoying universally acknowledged rights. They also advocate in particular concerted efforts by democratic forces within the Egyptian society to seriously undertake a legislative review in order to put an end to penalties against freedom in cases of opinion and publication and to reconsider different penal provisions which are beyond legal checks and which primarily aim at immunizing the ruling regime, its policies and practices inimical to human rights against criticism and disclosure, either under allegations relevant to national security, or public interests, or under the pretext of preserving state prestige and reputation. Those provisions, which continue to be in force, are an affront to the dignity of all Egyptians.
Organizations signing the statement
• Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
• Land Center for Human Rights
• Al Nadeem Center for the remedy and psychological Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture
• Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies
• Hesham Mubarak Law Center
• Arab Organization for Penal Reform Organization.
• The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
• Democracy Development Foundation
• The Association for Human Rights Legal Aid
• The Egyptian Association for Community Participation Development
• Justice Advocates for Human Rights Association
• Human Rights Center for the Assistance of Prisoners
• Center for Trade Union and Workers Service
• Arab Network for Human Rights Information
• The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
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