On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Egypt's State Security Prosecutor today charged human rights activist Mustafa Zidane with spreading false rumors.
The Prosecutor has not announced any evidence of wrongdoing revealed by his expanding investigation of human rights organizations, but seems determined to subject more human rights workers to intimidation.
Zidane voluntarily presented himself at noon for questioning. The Prosecutor questioned him for about 3 hours and then imposed L.E. 200 bail. He is still in custody, and we hope he will be released soon.
The Prosecutor did not close the investigation, and more human rights workers may still be interrogated, charged, and detained. Zidane is the second human rights worker to be charged this week, following the Dec. 1 detention of Egyptian Organization for Human Rights head Hafez Abu-Se?da. Abu-Se?da or Zidane may be detained again at any time.
The world will celebrate the anniversary of the Universal Declaration tomorrow, Dec. 10. The world will honor human rights, but in Egypt human rights workers will wonder who might be charged next.
Zidane, a lawyer and member of the EOHR?s field work unit, conducted a fact-finding mission into the torture of citizens in Sohag. This attack comes just before the Government plans to introduce a new law regulating the internal affairs of human rights and other non-profit organizations.
Waging a campaign of fear against rights activists while the world celebrates human rights is a disgrace to Egypt. Egypt ought to encourage its citizens to improve human rights in their own country. Instead, the Prosecutor is punishing the human rights movement for revealing human rights abuses.
We are dismayed that this assault continues to expand, with yet another human rights worker charged, and with no end in sight. The Prosecutor should close this investigation immediately to defend Egypt?s reputation as a country that respects the basic liberties of its citizens.