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Egyptian Activist's Wife Appeals to President Mubarak for His Release - 2002-08-01

The wife of an Egyptian-American human rights advocate sentenced to seven years in prison this week is appealing to President Hosni Mubarak to free her ailing husband. Egyptian officials are saying the college professor's trial was a judicial matter, not political.

Human rights activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim was found guilty on Monday of illegally receiving funds from the European Commission to monitor Egypt's parliamentary elections. The court also found him guilty of defaming Egypt in a report about relations between Muslims and minority Christians.

His seven-year prison sentence drew widespread condemnation from international human rights groups that said the verdict was aimed at limiting political debate in Egypt.

The U.S. State Department issued a statement expressing disappointment. A British foreign affairs minister said his country has great concern over the verdict, which he described as incomprehensible.

Mr. Ibrahim will be able to appeal his conviction. And, in an interview with VOA, his wife, Barbara Ibrahim, said she plans to ask Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to intervene on her husband's behalf.

"I'm talking to everyone that I can manage to speak to because I think we're in a situation right now where one wing of the Egyptian government is absolutely out of control and there's really no hope within the judicial system for Saad's situation to be resolved," she said. "So I fully believe that it's going to take political pressure that gets the father of the country involved to overrule what is sadly, for Egypt, the imposition of a police state right now."

Mrs. Ibrahim, who is the director of a research institute in Cairo that examines population issues, says she is deeply concerned about her husband's health. She says he suffers from a disease that causes brain strokes.

"What this has done is affect his ability to walk properly so that he occasionally falls," she explained. "It affects his small motor coordination in his hands so that, now, he has difficulty holding a pen, writing. I have to button his shirt for him. And the tragedy for us is this is a slow degenerative condition."

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher told VOA that the Ibrahim case was what he called a judicial court decision. He said it was not politically motivated. The minister also said foreign embassies should not be commenting on internal judicial decisions.

Mrs. Ibrahim says it could take as many as 10 months for her husband's case to be heard by the appeals court. She says her husband is subdued as a result of his conviction, but says he is asking his Egyptian friends not to become so discouraged, that they give up the fight for more democracy and freedom in Egypt.