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Freedom House Protests Jailing of Egyptian Human Rights Activist
Freedom House today expressed its profound disappointment over an Egyptian court's rejection of an appeal of a seven-year jail sentence by Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a sociologist and human rights activist.
Dr. Ibrahim, director of the Ibn Khaldun Foundation, a think tank focused on political and economic reform, lost his appeal to overturn the sentence, which was handed down last year. Despite an international outcry over the sentence, the Egyptian government insisted on pursuing its case.
Dr. Ibrahim has in the past documented human rights abuses and government and electoral irregularities in Egypt. He was charged with damaging Egypt's image after receiving a grant from the European Union to encourage people to vote in Egypt's legislative elections in 2000. Dr. Ibrahim, a Muslim, has also spoken out on behalf of Egypt's persecuted Coptic Christian minority.
"The Egyptian government is silencing the wrong voices," said Freedom House President Adrian Karatnycky. "In a post September 11th environment, in which religious and political extremism must be challenged, voices of tolerance, pluralism, and understanding are desperately needed, especially in the Middle East, " he said. "The jailing of Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a man who defends human rights and democracy in the Muslim world, represents a dark day for Egypt."
Dr. Ibrahim reportedly plans to appeal the sentence. Freedom House strongly urges that Dr. Ibrahim, who suffers from ill health, be released from jail pending his appeal.
Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom awarded Dr. Ibrahim its International Religious Freedom Award in a ceremony in the U.S. Capitol in December 1999. Dr. Paul Marshall, the Center's senior scholar, was one of the first westerners to visit Dr. Ibrahim while he was held in jail during his initial trial in 2000.
"Dr. Ibrahim has always done his work openly and honestly. The charges and this sentence are political moves designed to silence government critics," Dr. Marshall said. "They are an alarming setback for democracy, civil society and human rights in Egypt."
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.