Egypt under human rights spotlight for trial of democracy activist
Human rights activists prepared Friday to put Egypt under the spotlight for the trial of an Egyptian-American democracy activist and colleagues on charges of undermining the nation's interests.
London-based Amnesty International said it would monitor the "political trial" of the activist, Saad Eddine Ibrahim, and 27 other people in the case when it opens here Saturday at the Supreme State Security Court.
In a statement obtained by AFP on Friday, the group said it was concerned that such a court "does not guarantee international standards for fair trial," as well as about the "political nature of certain charges."
If convicted of what human rights groups have denounced as vague charges, Ibrahim could face life in prison with hard labor, a sentence which cannot be appealed once it is pronounced by the security court.
Amnesty also recalled previous concerns over "pre-trial irregularities when several accused were held for weeks in detention without having been formally charged."
Amnesty and other human rights groups at home and abroad have not been alone in raising the alarm over the case of Ibrahim, an Egyptian who also has US citizenship and directs the Ibn Khaldun Center for human rights.
The US State Department has frequently voiced its concerns and called for Ibrahim's release from detention following his arrest on June 30. He was eventually freed on bail on August 10.
In late September, Ibrahim and the 27 others in the case were summoned for prosecution.
He was accused of receiving money from "associations and organizations serving foreign states to commit actions hurting the national interest," according to the statement issued by Attorney General Maher Abdel Wahed.
"Ibrahim, who is Egyptian, voluntarily spread false information and rumors abroad concerning certain internal situations in the country," the statement added.
Amnesty said the charge of spreading false information is of a "political nature."
He is also accused of having forged voter registration cards, in the runup to legislative elections that were held from October 18 to November 14.
Among the 27 facing similar charghes alongside Ibrahim are Nadia Abdel Nur, a Sudanese accountant at the Ibn Khaldun Center who had been released with Ibrahim on August 10 on the condition she not leave Egypt.
The others are all employees of the center or of the Women Voters Support Center, which Egyptian authorities accused in June of helping Ibrahim forge voter registration cards.
Egyptian law calls for punishments going up to life in prison with hard labor for those convicted of receiving bribes.
A criminal conspiracy charge carries up to 15 years of forced labor, while receiving unauthorized funds carries penalties of between one year in jail and life in prison.
The spreading of rumors carries a penalty of detention for an unlimited time, reaching up to several years.
Ibrahim complained that the case had been mounted against him for his work toward supporting democratic elections as well as standing up for the rights of the Coptic Christian minority and women.
Amnesty International meanwhile said it also had concerns about an expected verdict Sunday in the trial of 20 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, an outlawed group that has been partially tolerated -- CAIRO (AFP)
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