Human Rights Watch today condemned Egypt's continued incarceration of Saadeddin Ibrahim and other defendants in the Ibn Khaldun case. Their legal appeal to the Court of Cassation resumes on January 16, 2002.
Ibrahim suffers from a degenerative neurological condition requiring immediate specialist treatment. The court has not yet responded to his separate appeal, filed in July 2001, for suspension of sentence on medical grounds.
"The arrest, prosecution, and conviction of Professor Ibrahim and his colleagues is a complete scandal," said Joe Stork, Washington director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch. "In his case, incarceration is not only arbitrary and unjust but has become a humanitarian issue as well."
The first session of the legal appeal, on December 19, 2001, was adjourned without a decision by the court's seven-member bench. The court also postponed a decision on a separate application by defense lawyers for a temporary suspension of sentences pending the outcome of the appeal, and failed to respond at all to the separate medical appeal of Ibrahim.
In an updated twenty-one-page report on the case released today, Human Rights Watch said that the trial was politically motivated and unfair at every stage. Ibrahim, a sociology professor and head of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, an independent nongovernmental organization, was sentenced in May 2001 to seven years of imprisonment after being convicted on charges of receiving foreign funds without official permission, disseminating false information damaging to Egypt's stature abroad, and fraud.
Three colleagues were sentenced to two years in prison with labor on the fraud charge. Two other defendants, convicted on separate charges of bribery and forgery, received five-year sentences with labor.
At the December 19 hearing, the Court of Cassation's own prosecution office, a body that is independent of the office of the General Prosecution and that advises the court's judges on the merits of legal arguments, agreed on a number of points raised by the defense, and recommended that the seven-member bench uphold the appeal and order a retrial.
During the session, Saadeddin Ibrahim's defense lawyer reiterated his July application, on medical grounds, for a temporary suspension of sentence pending the outcome of the appeal. Ibrahim's health has deteriorated during his incarceration, and recent tests have shown damage to his spinal cord and the motor regions of the brain. The court took no decision on the substance of the appeal or on the temporary suspension of sentence.