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Continuing repression of non-violent politics

Egypt: Continuing repression of non-violent political activities


* News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International *

30 July 2002 MDE 12/027/2002

"The imprisonment of 16 alleged Muslim Brothers, following an unfair trial before the Supreme Military Court, shows yet again that freedom of expression and association continue to be seriously curtailed in Egypt," Amnesty International said today.

The men, who had been detained since November 2001, were sentenced to between three and five years' imprisonment for their non-violent political activities on 30 July 2002. They include doctors, university professors and engineers. Charges against them relate to their alleged membership of the banned Muslim Brotherhood; none relate to the use or advocacy of violence.

Amongst those convicted to three years' imprisonment is Hussein al-Darrag who stood as candidate in the parliamentary elections in October/November 2000 in the Shubra al-Khaima district of Cairo.

"Everyone should have the right to peacefully express their views without the threat of arrest and imprisonment," Amnesty International said, adding that it considers the 16 men to be prisoners of conscience who should be released immediately and unconditionally.

The trial fell short of international standards for fair trial. Amnesty International has consistently urged the Egyptian authorities to end the trial of civilians before military courts, whose procedures violate fundamental requirements of international law, such as the right to be tried before an independent and impartial court and the right to appeal to a higher court.

The trial of these men follows a long succession of scores of alleged Muslim Brothers standing trial before military courts for their non-violent political activities since 1995. Large numbers of alleged members of the organization have been arrested and detained in recent years, particularly in the run-up to elections of both legislative bodies and professional associations.

Background Political opposition activists and other government critics in Egypt are also at risk of torture and ill-treatment, in particular when detained by the State Security Intelligence (SSI). Ahmad Ali Goma'a, one of the defendants in this latest trial of alleged Muslim Brothers who was acquitted, told Amnesty International that he was tortured while interrogated in May 2001 at the SSI headquarters at Lazoghly Square in Cairo concerning his political activities, apparently in the context of the upcoming elections to the Shura Council, the Egyptian Upper House.

In recent months, for example, members of the Egyptian People's Committee for Solidarity with the Palestinian Intifada (EPCSPI), have increasingly been targeted. On 22 January 2002 several activists of the EPCSPI were arrested during the Cairo International Book Fair while collecting signatures for a petition. Following his release on 24 January, EPCSPI member Wa'el Tawfiq told an Amnesty International delegate that he had been tortured and ill-treated, including being subjected to electric shocks, while held in the SSI headquarters in Cairo.

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