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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 13:40 GMT
Egypt rights activist gets new trial
Saad Eddin Ibrahim
Human rights groups condemned Ibrahim's conviction
Egypt's highest appeals court has granted a new trial to an Egyptian-American scholar jailed for tarnishing his country's image.

Human rights groups in Egypt and abroad had demanded a new trial or the immediate release of Saad Eddin Ibrahim, 63, saying he had been imprisoned for political reasons.

"We are overjoyed," the professor's wife, Barbara, said after hearing the ruling.

Saad Eddin Ibrahim behind bars
Ibrahim holds both Egyptian and US citizenship

Ibrahim was originally tried with 27 other people, all of whom will now get a new hearing. A date for the retrial in the Supreme State Security Court was not immediately set.

Lawyers expect Ibrahim, said to be suffering from a degenerative neurological condition, to be freed pending the hearing.

Fraud claims

The sociology professor at the American University in Cairo was sentenced to seven years in prison by a state security court on 21 May last year.

Charges included tarnishing Egypt's image, embezzlement and accepting foreign money without government approval.

Ibrahim has said he was prosecuted because the Ibn Khaldun centre, an independent think tank he established in 1982, published reports accusing the government of rigging the 1995 parliamentary elections.

We still believe [the prosecution is] politically motivated and has been used as a pretext to punish people who criticise government policy

Sara Hamood of Amnesty International

The court had postponed the decision on a new trial twice before.

Barbara Ibrahim had gone to the court in Cairo with the couple's daughter.

Representatives of human rights groups and the US, Canadian, Norwegian, Australian, British and Dutch embassies were also present, reflecting the international attention the case has drawn.

Sara Hamood of Amnesty International said the London-based group would monitor the new trial.

"We still believe it's politically motivated and has been used as a pretext to punish people who criticise government policy," she said.

Ibrahim, who was born in Egypt and studied and taught in the United States, holds both Egyptian and American citizenship.

'Prepared for any decision'

The scholar's wife, son and daughter campaigned for Ibrahim's release on the Internet and in official circles in the United States and Egypt.

"As soon as the paperwork is completed we will bring him home. We need some time to be together as a family," Mrs Ibrahim said.

Her husband was not present on Wednesday as prisoners are not usually brought to the appeals court.

Mrs Ibrahim and their son and daughter saw Ibrahim a few days ago and found him "calmly prepared," for any decision, Barbara Ibrahim said.

A physical therapist has been visiting him regularly in prison to help with the degenerative neurological condition which affects his limbs.

See also:

17 Jan 02 | Middle East
Ruling on Egypt rights activist delayed
21 May 01 | Middle East
US condemns Egyptian jailing
21 May 01 | Middle East
Egypt jails human rights activist
18 Nov 00 | Middle East
Leading Egyptian activist goes on trial
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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