Prosecutors decided Sunday to summon a US-Egyptian human rights activist and 27 of his colleagues to court to answer accusations like those that landed him in jail earlier this year.
Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a US citizen who directs the Ibn Khaldun Center for Human Rights, has been summoned to state security court to answer allegations that he was paid "by associations and organizations serving foreign states to commit actions hurting the national interest," read the decision by Attorney General Maher Abdel Wahed.
"Ibrahim, who is Egyptian, voluntarily spread false information and rumors abroad concerning certain internal situations in the country" it said.
If tried and convicted, Ibrahim could face up to life in prison.
Ibrahim, who was contacted by AFP by telephone as the prosecutor's decision emerged, said he was "surprised" to learn of the new move against him and that his lawyers would be entrusted with his defense.
He was still at home Sunday evening and there were no signs of security forces. Ibrahim was arrested June 30 and held for 40 days.
Prosecutors also decided Sunday to summon another 27 people, many of whom were questioned or detained earlier this year in the case, to answer the same accusations.
Among them 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.
Although Ibrahim was never formally charged in June, he was accused of receiving illegal funding from abroad, forging voter registration cards and tarnishing Egypt's image. A total of 22 people were questioned or held in the case.
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 to life in prison.
The spreading of rumors carries a penalty of detention for an unlimited time, reaching up to several years.
Ibrahim, who is also a sociology professor at the American University in Cairo, told AFP after his August release that he was glad to be free after what he described as a "grueling experience.”
He 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.
Egypt's state-run press has in recent days severely criticized Ibrahim, in a sign that authorities were ready to take action against the activist, who had resumed contacts with the international press -- CAIRO (AFP)
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