Egyptian professor accused of spying for America


The Independent - August 7, 2000


   By   Caroline Hawleyin Cairo 


A prominent Egyptian university professor and pro-democracy campaigner, Saad eddin Ibrahim, has been accused of being an American spy, according to his lawyer, Farid al-Dib, who said he was "astonished" by the charge.


Mr Ibrahim, who has joint US and Egyptian nationality, was picked up from his home late at night, on 30 June.


Since then, he has been held without formal charge, while being questioned by state security prosecutors over a series of allegations, which range from accusing him of taking EU funds to produce a film damaging Egypt's reputation, having dealings with an Israeli diplomat in Cairo, and forging voter cards. 


But the allegation that Mr Ibrahim, a respected academic, spied for the United States is the most serious to date.


Although Egypt and the United States are strategic allies, their relationship has come under strain in recent days over Egypt's refusal to put pressure on the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, to make concessions on Jerusalem, after the failure of the Camp David summit last month.


Mr Ibrahim's lawyer, Farid al-Dib, said the timing of the new accusation against him may be linked to this. He called on President Hosni Mubarak to intervene to end what he described as a "farce".


 Over the past five weeks, both local and international human rights groups have expressed their concern over Mr Ibrahim's continued detention, and the United States said last week it was "deeply disappointed" by the most recent renewal of his detention order 11 days ago.


Human rights activists believe the authorities are trying to discredit Mr Ibrahim, because he planned to monitor parliamentary elections due in November, after widespread allegations of fraud during the last vote in 1995.


In a statement issued from prison last month, Mr Ibrahim said he believed he was being targeted because of his work promoting democracy and the rights of Egypt's Christian Copts.