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Cablegate: Meca Detainees Released

VZCZCXYZ0003
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHEG #3537 3610800
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 270800Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7789
INFO RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS CAIRO 003537

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

NSC STAFF FOR PASCUAL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KIRF PHUM PGOV EG
SUBJECT: MECA DETAINEES RELEASED

REF: A. CAIRO 3256
B. CAIRO 3351
C. CAIRO 3398

Sensitive but unclassified. Please protect accordingly.

1.(U) On December 25, the Office of the Public Prosecutor
ordered the release of three members of the Middle East
Christians Association (MECA) held since their November 10
arrests for allegedly "fueling sectarianism" and "insulting
Islam" (ref A and B). The three were released, without
charges, late on the afternoon of December 26. Our
understanding is that all three returned to their residences
in Cairo and Alexandria. The three still could be charged
criminally or face private lawsuits.

2. (SBU) Comment: The reasons for the release are not clear.
Under Egypt's criminal code, a suspect may be held without
charges for up to five consecutive fifteen-day periods. In
this case, the third fifteen-day detention period had just
expired, and a lawyer for one detainee told us that
investigators in the prosecutor's office missed a deadline
for requesting renewal of the detention. Another possible
explanation is that the government believed it had delivered
a sufficiently strong warning to the detainees and MECA, and
there was no point in holding the three any longer,
especially in light of the attention the case was attracting
(ref C).


Ricciardone

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