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Cablegate: A/S Posner Presses Goe Officials On the Emergency Law

VZCZCXRO0856
RR RUEHROV
DE RUEHEG #0235/01 0541235
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 231234Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0361
INFO ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 000235

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2035/02/23
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PTER KIRF EG
SUBJECT: A/S POSNER PRESSES GOE OFFICIALS ON THE EMERGENCY LAW

REF: 10 CAIRO 64; 10 CAIRO 47; 09 CAIRO 1925

CLASSIFIED BY: Margaret Scobey, Ambassador; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)

1. KEY POINTS

-- (U) In January 12-14 meetings, A/S Posner stressed that U.S.
human rights policy is based on principled engagement, universal
standards and a recognition that reform will come from internal
actors. In all instances, he cited President Obama's announcement
on his second day in office to close Guantanamo.

-- (C) According to Interior Ministry State Security Director
Rahman, the GOE uses the Emergency Law only in counterterrorism and
drug cases. He said Egypt faces a serious terrorism threat, and
uses the Emergency Law to detain suspects without charge for
prolonged periods.

-- (C) Justice Minister Marie asserted that prolonged detention
under the Emergency Law facilitates GOE investigations of terror
networks and funding.

-- (C) Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shehab noted that a draft
counterterrorism law is under review, but disagreements continue
between the Interior Ministry and other agencies over the length of
pre-trial detention.

2. (C) A/S Posner told his interlocutors that three pillars guide
the Obama Administration's human rights policy: principled
engagement with foreign countries in a spirit of friendship;
universal standards for all countries, including the United States,
based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and the
recognition that reform will come from internal, not external,
actors. A/S Posner noted that strong governments conduct an open
dialogue with a variety of stakeholders, and partner with robust
civil society organizations. A/S Posner queried GOE officials on
the Emergency Law's uses and prolonged detention without charge.
He urged the GOE to replace the State of Emergency with a law
specifically focused on counterterrorism.

--------------------------------------------- -----------

Interior Ministry State Security Director General Rahman

--------------------------------------------- -----------

3. (C) State Security Investigative Services Chief General Hassan
Abdel Rahman said that Egypt suffers from an "acute terrorist
threat," and the Emergency Law helps protect the country's "safety
and security." He characterized the region as "unstable," and
asserted that terrorism originating from Gaza directly threatens
Egypt. According to Rahman, the Muslim Brotherhood is the "mother
of all extremism and terrorism in Egypt and the world." "We
consider Hamas to be the military wing of the international Muslim
Brotherhood," he stated. Rahman noted that to balance security
with human rights, the GOE is working to replace the State of
Emergency with a counterterrorism law. He said the GOE uses the
Emergency Law only in counterterrorism and drug cases, and the
law's "only benefit" is that it allows the government to detain
suspects without charge for long periods.

4. (C) A/S Posner asked why the GOE has detained blogger Hany Nazir
under the Emergency Law without charge since October 2008. (Note:
per ref B, Nazir, a Coptic Christian, was detained following blog
posts deemed offensive to Islam and Christianity. End note.)
General Rahman responded that Nazir's posts criticizing Islam were
inflammatory, and in the context of Upper Egyptian sectarian
tensions could have caused Muslims to attack him. Therefore,
Rahman continued, the GOE detained Nazir "for his own security."
Rahman claimed that the GOE detained Nazir under the Emergency Law
to gather evidence to prosecute him for defaming religion.

CAIRO 00000235 002 OF 002


----------------------

Justice Minister Marie

----------------------

5. (C) Justice Minister Mahmoud Marie told A/S Posner the GOE uses
the Emergency Law to combat terrorism, citing the February 2009
bombing at the Khan El-Khalili market in Cairo and other attacks on
tourists in the 1990s. He said the Emergency Law allows detention
while the GOE investigates terrorist organizations and funding.
According to Marie, Egypt expects terror attacks "every day," and
cannot use the same procedures relevant to crimes committed by
"ordinary citizens." In response to A/S Posner's question
regarding bloggers jailed under the Emergency Law, Marie contended
that these cases have not stopped other bloggers from expressing
themselves, but acknowledged his lack of familiarity with the
details.

-----------------------------------------

Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Shehab

-----------------------------------------

6. (C) Minister of State for Parliamentary and Legal Affairs Mufeed
Shehab described the State of Emergency as a "weak point" in
Egypt's reform process, and "a problem" for U.S.-Egyptian bilateral
relations, Egypt's image abroad and the February 17 UN Human Rights
Council's Universal Periodic Review of Egypt. He said that
disagreements persist between the Interior Ministry and other
ministries over the MOI's interest in a longer pre-trial detention
period in the draft counterterrorism law that would replace the
State of Emergency. Shehab believed detainees in custody under the
Emergency Law should either be released or tried in regular courts,
but mentioned MOI concerns about releasing a large number of
Islamist detainees at once. Shehab noted he is "pressing" the
inter-agency committee to approve the draft law by February.

--------------------------------------------- -

MFA Deputy Assistant Minister for Human Rights

--------------------------------------------- -

7. (C) Deputy Assistant Minister for Human Rights Wael Aboulmagd
stressed President Mubarak's commitment to lifting the State of
Emergency and enacting a counterterrorism law in its place.
Aboulmagd noted interagency disagreements over the length of
pre-trial detention in the draft counterterrorism law. He said
that detainees under the Emergency Law can receive lawyers and
other visitors, and can appeal their detention. (Note: In
detention cases under both the Emergency Law and the penal code,
such as the detained bloggers per ref B, the government has
prevented lawyers from visiting their clients. End note.)

8. (U) A/S Posner cleared this message.
SCOBEY

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