Egypt's leading human rights activist, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, has been formally charged with illegally accepting funding from a foreign source - an EU grant worth 261,000 euros ($250,000).
The American University of Cairo professor is also charged with spreading false information with the intent to undermine the state and tarnish its image. Ibrahim, 61, director of the university's Ibn Khaldoun Center for Developmental Studies, was arrested in June and held for 45 days.
Despite the investigation into the activities of the center, Ibrahim, who holds US citizenship, on September 20 announced the resumption of the activities of the Independent Committee to Monitor Elections and began accepting volunteers to work on the committee.
Twenty-seven other people working with Ibrahim have also been charged and will stand trial before the High State Security Court. If convicted, Ibrahim could get a life sentence.
Ibrahim is accused of bribing government workers to broadcast news about the center's activities. The other defendants are charged with forging election cards.
Ibrahim believes the decision to put him on trial is the result of announcing his plans to monitor next month's parliamentary elections.
In 1995, the Independent Committee to Monitor Elections produced a 240-page report documenting government violations and instances of election fraud that occurred in the 88 electoral districts monitored by the committee. A number of candidates who did not win seats subsequently used the committee's findings to obtain court rulings annulling the election results in their districts, although the People's Assembly refused to implement the verdicts.
Ibrahim told the Cairo Times that unlike in 1995, this year's committee would be formed solely of volunteers, most of whom are sociology students at the American University in Cairo.
"I think that the government partially succeeded in its campaign against me," said Ibrahim. "The period in which I was detained was going to be used to meet volunteers and train them. As a result, the committee only has 50 members at the present time, as opposed to 600 in the last elections.''
Ibrahim has come under fire from the pro-government newspapers.
The state-owned Akhbar Al Yom published a picture of Ibrahim on its front page under the title "The return of the suspect!"
"Who is this tightrope walker to monitor elections in Egypt?" wrote editor-in-chief Tahani Ibrahim. "I'm shocked. Democracy has to have teeth. What logic allowed responsible officials of the state to let this man return once again to practice his dubious activities?" she added.
The weekly October warned Ibrahim, saying, "Every game has its limits and rules; impugning the uprightness of the judiciary in Egypt is outside the game's rules and limits."
Another weekly, Al Osboa, published an investigative report on Ibrahim entitled: "The games of Saad Eddin Ibrahim: After falsification and plotting, a new conspiracy to defame Egypt and cast doubt on the judiciary."
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )