Cablegate: Egyptian Quranist Detained, Released

DE RUEHEG #2229 3361434
P 021434Z DEC 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L CAIRO 002229



E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/02/2029

B. 07 CAIRO 1938

Classified By: Economic-Political Minister-Counselor Donald A. Blome for reason 1.4 (d).
1. Key Points: -- (SBU) On November 18, security officials at Cairo International Airport detained Abdel Latif Mohamed Saied, a member of the heterodox Islamic Quranist movement, when he attempted to board a flight for Khartoum. -- (C) On November 24, Embassy Cairo raised Saied's detention with Deputy Assistant Foreign Minister for Human Rights Wael Aboul Magd. On November 25, the GOE released Saied. -- (C) According to the Egyptian Initiative for Individual Rights (EIPR), a local human rights group that provides legal representation to Saied, he was not mistreated in detention.

2. (C) Comment: Egypt's Quranist movement, which considers the Koran the sole basis for Islamic law, is a small group that consists primarily of members of the extended family of Ahmed Sobhy Mansour, an Egyptian who operates the International Quranic Center in Northern Virginia. Despite the group's limited influence in Egypt, the GOE periodically arrests and otherwise harasses Quranists here. While the GOE's motives for doing so are unclear, possibilities include pressure from Egypt's Islamic institutions to suppress unorthodox religious thought and the movement's association with expatriate Egyptian reform advocates. End Comment. ------------------ Saied's Travel Ban ------------------

3. (C) Saied, a half-brother of Ahmed Sobhy Mansour, also attempted unsuccessfully to leave Egypt in April 2009 to travel to the U.S. to participate in the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy's annual conference (ref A). After security officials refused to permit him to travel in April, the EIPR filed suit against Egypt's Ministry of the Interior (MOI) challenging the travel ban. According to the EIPR, the MOI responded to the lawsuit by denying that Saied was barred from travel. A hearing in that case was scheduled for November 24, but postponed at EIPR's request because of Saied's detention.

4. (C) According to EIPR, Saied attempted to travel on November 18 to establish for his court case that he was subject to a travel ban. Alternatively, Saied hoped that with thousands of Egyptian soccer fans traveling to Khartoum on November 18 to attend the Egypt-Algeria soccer match, emigration officials would be overwhelmed and inadvertently permit him to travel. EIPR said that if Saied had been successful in traveling to Khartoum, he would have traveled onward to the U.S., entered with his valid U.S. visa, and, presumably, requested asylum. (Note: In June 2007, the GOE arrested Saied, charged him with "defamation of religion," and then released him in October 2007 (ref B). End note.)

5. (C) On November 24, we contacted the MFA's Wael Aboul Magd regarding Saied. Aboul Magd claimed to be unaware of the case, but committed to looking into it. On November 25, the GOE released Saied. Saied told EIPR he was not mistreated while in custody, but was given no explanation for his detention. Tueller

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