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Freedom House Condemns Indictment of Egyptian Democracy Advocate
Dr. Ibrahim, head of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, was charged on Sunday by State Security prosecutors with crimes including illegally accepting foreign funds, conspiracy to bribe, and making false statements about Egypt's internal situation. Twenty-seven others were arrested along with him, including many of the Center's staff. If convicted, he could receive a sentence of life in prison.
Dr. Ibrahim, an outspoken critic of Egypt's electoral process, reported on fraud in Egypt's 1995 election. The charges against him come on the heels of a documentary produced by Dr. Ibrahim about the Egyptian parliamentary elections scheduled to take place in October 2000. Samples of fraudulent ballots are displayed in the film. Dr. Ibrahim was also training observers for the forthcoming elections.
Dr. Ibrahim was detained in June for 45 days while police investigated him. During that time Freedom House Senior Fellow Paul Marshall and Middle East research director Joseph Assad met with and interviewed Dr. Ibrahim in Tora State Prison in Cairo, the only human rights defenders able to do so. Dr. Ibrahim told them "there is no ground from my point of view and from my lawyer's point of view for any of the accusations? I think in a court of law none of these allegations will stand. Therefore, we feel that it really was politically motivated?"
According to Paul Marshall, "Dr. Ibrahim has always done his work openly and honestly. These charges are a political move to silence government critics and are an alarming setback for democracy, civil society and human rights in Egypt," he said.
A Muslim, Dr. Ibrahim has also been a champion of the rights of Egypt's Coptic Christians. On December 10, 1999, International Human Rights Day, Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom awarded Dr. Ibrahim its International Religious Freedom Award in a ceremony in the U.S. Capitol.
His positions seem to have sparked a reaction within the Egyptian government and particularly the state security forces. Egypt is also currently attempting to muzzle non-governmental organizations and human rights monitors. Government pressure has also led to the closing of the Center for Legal Studies in Human Rights, while the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights has had to radically curtail its activities.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.