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Thursday, 17 January, 2002, 08:17 GMT
Ruling on Egypt rights activist delayed
Saad Eddine Ibrahim
Human rights groups condemned Ibrahim's conviction
Egypt's highest court has postponed a ruling on the appeal of a human rights activist convicted of damaging the country with his research focusing on the state of democracy.

After five hours of deliberation, the court's eight-judge panel said it would rule on 6 February on Saad Eddin Ibrahim's appeal.

It was the second time the panel had postponed a decision.

Hosni Mubarak
The Egyptian President says it is a matter for the courts
Ibrahim, 63, a sociology professor at the American University in Cairo, was sentenced last May to seven years in prison. The charges included tarnishing Egypt's image, embezzlement and accepting foreign funding for his private think-tank without government approval.

The court will also decide on 6 February on a request by Ibrahim's family for his immediate release from prison for health reasons. Ibrahim's wife has said her husband is suffering from an undiagnosed neurological disorder that requires urgent medical attention.

At the original trial, prosecutors focused on Ibrahim's writings about election fraud allegations and relations between Egypt's Muslim majority and its Christian minority, as well as his think-tank's voter education projects.

Mr Ibrahim was tried before a state security court, which means he has no right to a conventional appeal only to a review on technical grounds.

US concern

If the review request is granted, all 27 employees of Ibrahim's Ibn Khaldun research centre, who were convicted along with him, will get new trials.

In seeking a new trial, Ibrahim's lawyers have questioned the constitutionality of the law requiring private groups to get government permission to receive foreign funds, maintained the court did not fully consider the merits of the embezzlement charge, and said the defence team was not allowed to review all the evidence against the suspects.

Egyptian and international human rights groups have condemned the trial and conviction of Ibrahim and his staff.

Ibrahim holds joint US-Egyptian citizenship and his case has been repeatedly raised at the highest level by American officials.

But the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, has refused to be drawn on the issue in public, saying it is a matter for the courts to decide.

See also:

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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