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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 March, 2004, 19:18 GMT
Three Britons are jailed in Egypt
Ian Nisbet, Reza Pankhurst and Maajid Nawaz
Ian Nisbet, Reza Pankhurst and Maajid Nawaz were held in 2002
Three Britons accused of promoting a banned Islamic group have been jailed for five years each in Egypt.

Ian Nisbet and Reza Pankhurst, from London, and Maajid Nawaz, from Essex, were accused of trying to revive Hizb al-Tahrir (Islamic Liberation Party).

The men were arrested in April 2002 and were accused of trying to overthrow the Egyptian Government.

In total 26 people were jailed on Thursday for plotting "to revolt against" established Islamic regimes.

We tried to change oppression in Egypt. Now, they are admitting that they are oppressors
Ian Nisbet
Nisbet, 29, of Upton Park, east London and originally from Oxfordshire, and Pankhurst, 28, are computer consultants, while Nawaz, 26, from Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, is an undergraduate studying Arabic and law.

All are married with children and were arrested along with 80 others in a series of raids across Egypt in April 2002 following a crackdown on Islamic groups after the September 11 massacres in the US.

The men were detained for trying to revive Hizb al-Tahrir, which is legal in the UK. It wants secular Egypt to be ruled by religious mullahs having previously tried to overthrow the government in the 1970s.

Uproar at sentences

As the sentences were read out, relatives cried and shouted, but the men burst into shouts of, "God is great, thanks be to God!"

Nisbet, who now goes by the name Yehiya Nisbet, said: "We're not sad. We hope God is going to award us in the afterlife. We tried to change oppression in Egypt."

Ian Nisbet, Reza Pankhurst and Maajid Nawaz
The three Britons in court on December 25, 2003
His British wife, Humayra, cried quietly and held his hand through the bars of the prisoners' cage.

Nawaz said: "I stand here as a prisoner of conscience and my beliefs are stronger than ever."

Later, in a statement, his wife Rabia said: "There is no doubt that this verdict is politically motivated. The evidence, or should I say lack of it is, is testimony to that.

Pankhurst's wife Hodan added: "It is in trial terms, the worst nightmare but morally we are all triumphant and our spirit cannot be broken.

"My husband is innocent and all he has been sentenced with in effect is being a Muslim who carries peaceful Islamic political thought.

It was a Mickey Mouse trial in a Kangaroo court with Goofy as judge
Reza Pankhurst's mother, Zara
"To be sentenced to five years in prison, not be able to legally do anything about it (after having been tortured) is nothing short of scandalous!

"Today a seal has been placed on any hope that there remained any ounce of justice in Egypt.

Early release unlikely

The three claim to have been tortured with electric shocks and beaten-up while in custody in order to force confessions from them.

Prior to their trial, they spent two years in jail due to prolonged legal wrangling. They will now serve three years, the remainder of their sentence.

Stephen Jakobi, from Fair Trials Abroad, said: "Contrary to international law, we understand there is no appeal for this particular court.

"This was a special court which hasn't ever sat before and there is no appeal as we understand it. It is entirely up to political and diplomatic pressure."

Egypt has suffered terrorist bomb outrages in recent years and government authorities have cracked down on resurgent Islamic movements.

The BBC's Paul Wood
"The charge is simply of spreading the party's ideas"

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