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Egypt Gives New Prison Term to Rights Advocate - 2002-07-29

An Egyptian court has sentenced for a second time an Egyptian-American human rights advocate and college professor to seven years in prison on charges of tarnishing Egypt's image and of illegally receiving foreign funding.

Saad Eddin Ibrahim was found guilty of illegally receiving funds from the European Commission to monitor parliamentary elections and of defaming Egypt in a report about relations between Muslims and minority Christians.

The verdict came at the end of a re-trial that had been ordered by an appeals court for the 63-year-old sociology professor at the American University in Cairo. He is one of Egypt's most outspoken human rights advocates, and had been released from an Egyptian prison after serving eight months of his sentence when the appeals court ruled a new trial should be held.

His American-born wife, Barbara Ibrahim, told VOA that the appeals court decision gave her no reason to believe her husband would find justice in Egypt's court system.

"I believed that the judicial process in Egypt was working and this was some kind of aberration," he said. "This time around I have to tell you I'm much more frightened. I think what we have seen today is signaling the collapse of the judicial system in Egypt, a pretty serious signal of what's going on in the country."

Human rights groups in Egypt and abroad have condemned the trial, saying it was aimed at limiting political debate in Egypt.

In a statement released by the U.S. embassy in Egypt, U.S. Charge d'Affaires Gordon Gray expressed disappointment over the verdict. He said U.S. officials are analyzing the implications of the court's decision.

Several of Mr. Ibrahim's colleagues were also retried, receiving lesser sentences ranging from three years in prison to suspended sentences.

Mr. Ibrahim has the right to appeal Monday's verdict to the same court that ordered a retrial. If the court accepts, it will hear the case directly.