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Saturday, 18 November, 2000, 22:42 GMT
Leading Egyptian activist goes on trial
Mr Ibrahim with two unidentified defendants
Mr Ibrahim (centre) says he expects to be acquitted
The trial has started in Egypt of a leading human rights and pro-democracy activist charged with undermining state interests.

Saad Eddin Ibrahim and 27 others are accused of receiving unauthorised funds from the European Union, and of spreading false information about parliamentary elections.

The trial, which human rights group say is politically motivated, was adjourned until January at the defence lawyers' request.

Hosni Mubarak
Hosni Mubarak has come under fire over the arrest
Foreign diplomats, including some from the United States, are reported to have attended the opening of the trial in Cairo.

Mr Ibrahim, who has Egyptian and American citizenship, is a professor at the American University in Cairo.

Legal concerns

His is also the director of a think-tank, the Ibn Khaldun Centre, which receives some foreign funding.

The centre deals with ensuring elections are conducted fairly but also focuses on the sensitive issue of relations between Muslim and Coptic Christian communities.

Before the trial began on Saturday, the activist said he expected to be "found innocent of all charges," and said he put his faith in the legal system.

Mr Ibrahim was detained at the end of June and held for weeks without being formally charged.

He was later released from detention.

Spying charges

Amnesty International has expressed concern that the state security court - where Mr Ibrahim appeared in a cage - "does not guarantee international standards for fair trial."

The authorities have accused him of taking EU funds to make a film that damages the reputation of the Egyptian Government, both at home and abroad.

In a statement after his June arrest, Mr Ibrahim said he believed a case had been contrived against him to stop him making new accusations during November's parliamentary elections.

In the past, he made allegations of vote-rigging, which the government strongly rejects.

The Egyptian prosecutor's offices says it is pursuing an investigation into charges that Mr Ibrahim spied for a foreign government, in a case being conducted in parallel to the trial taking place in Cairo.

He was previously accused of having links to US intelligence because he gave a report in Washington in 1994 about Islamic extremism.

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See also:

14 Jul 00 | Middle East
Rights groups press Egypt over arrests
02 Jul 00 | Middle East
US refused access to rights campaigner
01 Jul 00 | Middle East
Egyptian democracy campaigner arrested
10 Aug 00 | Middle East
Egypt to free human rights activist
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