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Intellectuals Ask Mubarak to Release Human Rights Activist - 2002-09-26

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is being urged to free an imprisoned human rights activist.

Prominent Egyptians and Arab intellectuals have sent the president a letter warning that Egypt's image abroad is at stake.

The letter was written in response to last month's imprisonment of Egyptian-American human-rights activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim. He was sentenced to seven years in prison after being convicted of defaming Egypt, embezzlement and receiving foreign funds without authorization.

Wednesday, a group of 100 prominent Egyptians and Arab intellectuals, including newspaper editors and a former Lebanese Prime Minister, sent President Mubarak a letter asking that the activist be immediately released and all charges dropped.

The letter said Egypt's image abroad is being damaged by Mr. Ibrahim's imprisonment. It also said his health is being threatened by the prison's physical and psychological conditions.

Mr. Ibrahim, who holds dual Egyptian and U.S. citizenship, has a neurological disorder that causes him to suffer periods of disorientation.

Human rights organizations from around the world have also criticized the Egyptian government for prosecuting and imprisoning Mr. Ibrahim. They say he was singled out for political reasons.

The 63-year-old sociology professor is an outspoken advocate of greater democracy and minority rights in Egypt.

President Bush responded to the conviction by declaring that because of Mr. Ibrahim's imprisonment, Egypt would not receive aid beyond the $2 billion it has received annually since it made peace with Israel in 1979.

Egypt said the United States had no right to intervene in Egyptian judicial matters.

Mr. Ibrahim was first taken into custody in 2000 while organizing a team to monitor legislative elections. He was found guilty of illegally accepting funds from the European Union to monitor elections, of using the funds for personal reasons and of defaming Egypt in an article he wrote about Muslim-Christian relations.

There has so far been no response from President Mubarak or other government officials to the letter seeking Mr. Ibrahim's release.