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Monday, 21 May, 2001, 22:46 GMT 23:46 UK
US condemns Egyptian jailing
Saad Eddine Ibrahim was kept behind bars during his trial
Saad Eddine Ibrahim behind bars during his trial
The United States has said it is "deeply troubled" by the sentencing of a prominent Egyptian human rights campaigner to seven years in jail.

Saad Eddine Ibrahim and 27 co-defendants were arrested last July on charges that included spying for the US.

"We've been expressing all along our concerns about the process that resulted in this sentence," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said after the sentencing on Monday.

It is a struggle and it will go on. I do not regret anything I stood for

Saad Eddine Ibrahim
Mr Ibrahim - a professor of sociology and director of the Ibn Khaldun Centre for Democracy who holds dual American and Egyptian citizenship - pleaded not guilty to the charges.

He has said he will appeal.

The accusations against him included accepting funds from abroad to make a film deriding the Egyptian Government.

His co-defendants also received prison sentences, ranging from two to five years.

Human rights concerns

Two human rights groups have issued a joint statement condemning the results of the trial, calling them "politically motivated".

We believe that the charges against Dr Ibrahim were politically motivated

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said the speed with which the verdict was reached "raises grave concerns about how seriously the defence team's evidence - some of which was still being submitted today - was considered".

The groups said the trial was one of "a number of blows intended to muzzle civil society in Egypt".

Lawyer Ibrahim Sadeh told The Associated Press news agency that he would ask for the sentence to be suspended until the Cassation Court, Egypt's highest, could review the case.

'Politically motivated'

There were shouts of protest in the courtroom as the verdict was announced.

Mr Ibrahim told AP that the verdict was "politically motivated".

"It is a struggle and it will go on," he said. "I do not regret anything I stood for."

During his detention, Mr Ibrahim said the Egyptian Government had arrested him to cover up irregularities in parliamentary elections in 1995.

He said the Ibn Khaldun Centre had in the past ensured the integrity of elections and reduced the possibilities of fraud.

The United States has repeatedly called for his release.

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See also:

10 Aug 00 | Middle East
Egypt to free human rights activist
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
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