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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 December, 2003, 18:09 GMT
Blair accused of Egypt hypocrisy
Ian Nisbet, Reza Pankhurst and Maajid Nawaz
Mr Nisbet, Mr Pankhurst and Mr Nawaz claim they were tortured
The wife of a British man allegedly tortured in a Cairo jail has accused Prime Minister Tony Blair of "hypocrisy" by holidaying in Egypt.

The Blairs will return to the Red Sea area for the third year running this Christmas, according to reports.

Hodan Pankhurst, whose husband Reza is one of three Britons being held for promoting a banned Islamic group, says Mr Blair is "endorsing" their torture.

Downing Street has refused to comment on the Blairs' holiday plans.

Mr Pankhurst, 28, together with 29-year-old Londoner Ian Nisbet and Maajid Nawaz, 25, of Essex, are accused of trying to revive Hizb-ut-Tahrir - the Islamic Liberation Party.

The three Britons are standing trial in Cairo's Supreme Court and are due to learn their fate on Christmas Day.

By maintaining this sort of relationship Tony Blair is an accomplice in those crimes - this is nothing short of hypocrisy
Hodan Pankhurst
Mrs Pankhurst, who lives in London, said: "Egypt has broken many, many laws in the way it has treated my husband and the others.

"By maintaining this sort of relationship Tony Blair is an accomplice in those crimes. This is nothing short of hypocrisy"

Hizb-ut-Tahrir was banned in Egypt following an attempted coup in 1974.

Mr Nawaz and Mr Pankhurst are also accused of possessing and distributing printed literature which "promoted Hizb-ut-Tahrir's message".

Mr Pankhurst faces a third charge of possessing a computer used for "propagating" the group's ideology.

Electric shocks

The trio, who all deny the charges, were arrested in Egypt in April 2002 together with 23 Egyptians in a post-September 11 crackdown.

They claim they have been forced to sign confessions they could not read in Arabic and have been beaten, tortured with electric shocks and deprived of sleep.

Mrs Pankhurst says the government, which has taken the unusual step of writing to the British prisoners to say their believe their claims, is sending mixed messages to the Egyptian authorities.

She claims Foreign Office officials are pressing for explanations on torture "while Tony Blair is furthering his very cosy relationship by going there year after year on holiday".

"If there's an ounce of justice left in Egypt our husbands should be home", she added.

Egyptian tourism minister Lila Habid reportedly confirmed the Blairs would be returning to the Sharm el-Sheikh resort.

But Downing Street would not comment on the holiday plans insisting the matter was "private".

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