Responding to criticism from international human rights groups, Egypt's attorney general said Tuesday that activist Saadeddine Ibrahim, jailed since June, has not been formally charged and the investigation would end soon, reported The Associated Press.
In an unusual move, prosecutor-general Maher Abdel Wahid issued a statement Tuesday saying no charges had been brought against Ibrahim "pending an end to questioning and gathering of evidence."
Rights groups and the US government had expressed concern over the case of Ibrahim, a sociology professor at the American University in Cairo. Ibrahim's lawyer said Sunday that prosecutors had accused his client of "espionage for the United States to undermine Egypt's national security and harm its military, economic and political interests."
The lawyer, Farid el-Dib, also said no formal charges had been filed and called the allegations "a farce."
The statement left unclear whether the investigation could eventually result in formal espionage charges.
Abdel Wahid has in the past refused to comment on the case, despite local newspapers reporting a variety of allegations against Ibrahim, said the AP.
In their questioning, prosecutors reportedly have accused Ibrahim of several offenses, including that he accepted foreign money without government permission and forged ballots for a documentary film about elections that allegedly would have tarnished Egypt's image.
El-Dib said Tuesday that higher officials may have requested Abdel Wahid back away from the espionage accusations because they were politically sensitive and involved the United States.
El-Dib said he saw the prosecutor's statement as a "partial retraction." He urged prosecutors to make formal charges "if they have any."
Under Egyptian law, Ibrahim can be held for up to six months without charge, said the agency.
On Monday, the US State Department urged Egypt to free Ibrahim, saying he may have been detained because of his advocacy for human rights, said the agency - Albawaba.com
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