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Update on Sociology Human Rights Cases

Sociologist Released in Egypt

Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim was released from prison in Egypt on February 7, 2002 after being held for nearly a year on charges that were widely believed to be politically motivated. Also released were five of his colleagues from the Ibn Khaldun Center, a civil and human rights organization in Cairo.

Dr. Ibrahim is a sociology professor at the American University in Cairo (AUC) and founder and director of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Born in Egypt, he has studied and taught in the United States and holds both Egyptian and U.S. citizenship. AUC, where Ibrahim has taught since 1975, issued a statement after his release saying he would resume teaching next semester.

According to a report by Jailan Halawi in Al Ahram Weekly on February 14, 2002, Ibrahim was back at his office on the ground floor of the Social Science department at AUC, where he was warmly welcomed by his colleagues and students. With his typically serene smile, he said, “I am the eternal optimist. If you are not one, then you have no place in public life.”

In the Al Ahram interview, Ibrahim said he learned to be fatalistic in prison. “Life had to go on. Since I was not in control of when and how I would be released, I spent my time reading, praying, and writing,” he said. Ibrahim said the time he spent in prison was quite productive, as he started writing two books, as well as his memoirs. Reflecting on the irony of his situation, he said, “I visited prison as a researcher in 1977, but never imagined that, 24 years later, I would be an inmate. “

On February 6, 2002, the Egyptian Court of Cassation overturned Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim's Conviction and granted his appeal for a new trial. In May 2001, he was sentenced to a seven-year prison term for accepting funds from the European Union without official permission, deliberately disseminating false information and malicious rumors about the internal affairs of the State, and harming the image of the State abroad. By all accounts, the charges are related to the activities of the Ibn Khaldun Center, which has issued several reports and documentaries critical of Egyptian government policies, including a documentary on voter fraud.

The Court of Cassation is the highest appeals court in Egypt. Its decision found six different aspects of the original court's decision to be flawed and therefore inadmissible in the next trial, the date of which has not yet been set. Ibrahim suffers from a degenerative neurological disorder, and while in detention, he also suffered a series of strokes. His wife reports that they are optimistic about the court's decision.

The trial of Ibrahim and his colleagues was closely watched by many people and institutions around the world. Professional and scientific societies and individuals in university communities joined human rights organizations in a vigorous campaign demanding the release of Ibrahim and his colleagues. Diplomats from the U.S., Canadian, Danish, Italian, Spanish, German, Australian, British and Dutch embassies attended the Appeals Court session, reflecting international concern in the case. The American Sociological Association along with the American Association for the Advancement of Science Human Rights Action Network were particularly aggressive in urging the release of Ibrahim and his colleagues and expressing grave concerns about the verdict. (See www.asanet.org/public/humanrights.html).