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US Disappointed Over Egyptian Court's Conviction of Democracy Activist - 2002-07-30

The United States is expressing deep disappointment over an Egyptian court's conviction of Egyptian-American democracy activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim, on charges of tarnishing Egypt's image and illegally receiving funds from the European Union.

The United States has rarely been critical of the Egyptian government of President Hosni Mubarak, which is a key U.S. political ally in the region. But the State Department says it is "deeply disappointed" over the decision on Mr. Ibrahim by an Egyptian state security court, which upheld an earlier conviction of the democracy activist and re-sentenced him Monday to seven years in prison.

Mr. Ibrahim, a 63-year-old sociology professor at the American University in Cairo, had been arrested in 2000 and put on trial last year on charges of sullying Egypt's reputation, and of accepting and embezzling foreign funds, a charge that has been rejected by the source of the money itself, the European Union.

Mr. Ibrahim has been involved in monitoring election fraud in Egypt and has authored a report critical of the government's treatment of minority Coptic Christians. He was convicted and sentenced to seven years imprisonment in the initial proceeding, and faced the same charges again in the security court after Egypt's highest appeals court ruled in February that a new trial should be held.

State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said the United States is concerned about both the verdict and the way the trial of Mr. Ibrahim was conducted, and that contacts between the two governments over the issue will continue. Mr. Reeker said, "We persistently made known our concerns to the government of Egypt regarding the process that led to this verdict. We've done so both here and in Cairo at the most senior levels, including through our ambassador in Egypt and the Egyptian ambassador here in Washington. And we're going to continue follow Dr. Ibrahim's case closely and press our concerns with the Egyptian authorities."

Spokesman Reeker said the U.S. charge d'affairs in Egypt, Gordon Gray, and consular officials have visited Mr. Ibrahim in detention and that access will continue. Mr. Ibrahim, a naturalized U.S. citizen, has served eight months of the sentence from the initial conviction and is said to have suffered some minor strokes while in prison.

Mr. Ibrahim's now-defunct think-tank first drew the ire of the Egyptian government in 1995 when it said that parliamentary elections that year were not free and fair. He was arrested in 2000 while preparing to monitor another legislative vote. A number of his colleagues at the Cairo research group have also been tried on various offenses and given lesser sentences.