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The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"It's ironic that foreign funding charges should be made in a country which gets so much US aid"
 real 28k

Sunday, 2 July, 2000, 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK
US refused access to rights campaigner
Saad Eddin Ibrahim
Ibrahim: Respected figure at Cairo's American University
American diplomats in Cairo have been refused access to a prominent Egyptian-born pro-democracy campaigner, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, who was arrested on Friday.

Mr Ibrahim, who holds joint US-Egyptian nationality, has been charged with accepting foreign funds in order to damage Egypt's interests.

We hope we will see him soon

US embassy spokesman
An Egyptian security official said embassy officials would be allowed to meet the prisoner only after the Egyptian authorities had finished questioning him.

BBC correspondent Caroline Hawley says it is the authorities' treatment of Mr Ibrahim which is likely to damage Egypt's image abroad.

"Our ambassador Daniel Kurtzer has raised and discussed the case of Dr Ibrahim with a number of senior Egyptian officials, including the prime minister", embassy spokesman David Ballard said.

Mr Ballard said the embassy had been putting in requests to visit the prisoner since Saturday morning. He expressed optism that access would be granted soon.

Egyptian election poster
Democracy takes a back seat at Egyptian election time
The secretary general of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights, Hafez Abu Sa'ada, said the arrest was aimed at preventing plans to establish an independent committee to monitor Egyptian parliamentary elections later in 2000.

The academic is also director of one of a number of Egyptian NGOs which receive funds from the European Union. The Egyptian Government itself receives almost $2bn American aid every year.

Respected figure

The arrest has cause dismay among supporters of civil society in Egypt.

Mr Ibrahim is a respected academic figure, a professor of sociology at the American University in Cairo (AUC), who also heads the Ibn Khaldun Centre for Development Studies.

A new episode in the escalating confrontation by the state to terrify rights activists

Hafez Abu Sa'ada
He has been a regular interviewee in the international media, where he has criticised the lack of democracy in Arab states and their mistreatment of minority groups.

State security prosecutors have ordered Mr Ibrahim be held for 15 days under Egypt's long-standing emergency laws.

Mr Ibrahim's lawyers said the specific charge was for taking EU funds "to make a film that damages the reputation of the Egyptian Government, both at home and abroad".

Intimidating activists

Mr Ibrahim's supporters say the only film he has been making is a documentary to encourage participation in the forthcoming elections.

He had also been planning to monitor the poll. In the past Egyptian polls have been beset by accusations of electoral fraud and ballot rigging.

Mr Abu Sa'ada, who was himself arrested on similar charges, called the Ibrahim affair "a new episode in the escalating confrontation by the state to dissuade and terrify" rights activists.

Mr Ibrahim had been assigned bodyguards by his AUC employers after he received anonymous death threats because of his support of Egypt's Coptic Christian minority.

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See also:

01 Jul 00 | Middle East
Egyptian democracy campaigner arrested
17 Jun 00 | Middle East
Egyptian writer on trial over religion
22 Feb 00 | Background
Egypt's fragile Coptic community
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