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August 09, 2002

American Sociological Association Urges Release Of Jailed Scholar and Democracy Activist in Egypt

WASHINGTON, DC — Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a 63-year-old sociology professor at the American University in Cairo and founder and director of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, was convicted for the second time on July 29, 2002, to seven years in prison by the Supreme State Security Court in Cairo, Egypt. His latest conviction appears to stem from his being a leading scholar and proponent of democratic reforms in Egypt.

The American Sociological Association (ASA) has sent a letter of protest to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and other top government officials. ASA also has provided critical information to ASA members about the case in order to allow them to take action to protest the incarceration of Ibrahim, who, along with a number of his colleagues, was unjustly sentenced. In addition, ASA is collaborating with the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Human Rights Program and other scientific associations. And, on August 15, 2002, at the opening session of ASA’s Annual Meeting in Chicago, President Barbara Reskin will urge ASA members to take action to help protect the academic and scientific freedom of colleagues on the other side of the globe.

ASA’s letter to Mubarak expressed grave concern that the verdict was handed down as a result of Ibrahim’s work as a scholar and scientist. The sentence is particularly discouraging considering that, in expression of his work, Ibrahim’s protections are guaranteed by the 1967 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a signatory and which states: “Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference (Article 19.1); everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds (Article 19.2); and everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law (Article 14).”

In its letter of protest, the ASA urged reversal of the verdict against Dr. Ibrahim and his associates. On behalf of the ASA, President Barbara Reskin and Executive Officer Sally T. Hillsman said, “We are also profoundly dismayed by the sentencing procedure and verdict, which delivered unwarranted punishment to Dr. Ibrahim and his associates. Unwisely, judicial process was mocked in this trial. No time was allocated to the judge making a decision after the defense’s closing arguments and the prosecution did not even present its final rebuttal. The court’s lack of adherence to basic standards of judicial procedure and Judge Adel Abdel Salaam Gomaa’s sentencing decision are in direct violation of a number of international treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Egypt ratified on August 4, 1967.”

The physically ailing Ibrahim holds dual U.S. and Egyptian citizenship and has a PhD in sociology from the University of Washington. He is an internationally respected scholar and advocate for greater democracy and respect for human rights in the Middle East.

His July 2002 retrial, conducted by the Court of Cassation, concluded abruptly and immediately after the defense’s final statement, when the judge read Ibrahim’s sentence but did not state the counts on which he was found guilty. Ibrahim was first sentenced over a year ago after being accused of deliberately disseminating false information and malicious rumors about the internal affairs of the State and “harming the image” of Egypt abroad. The first ruling was put aside in February 2002, after Egypt’s highest appeals court found the original court’s decision to be flawed on six counts. A retrial began in April 2002 and concluded with this most recent sentencing.

The Ibn Khaldun Center is a civil and human rights organization in Cairo and has been outspoken on Egyptian government policies that conflict with democratic reform. Its activities have included producing a documentary about voter fraud; serving in election monitoring; and conducting research on democracy, civil society, and minority rights in Egypt.

ASA has actively followed this case and filed letters of protest after Ibrahim’s initial arrest on June 30, 2000, and ASA issued a formal statement at the 2001 ASA Annual Meeting addressing the human rights of American scholars. Visit ASA’s human rights webpage human rights webpage for more background, a copy of ASA’s letter to Egyptian officials, and current information.

The American Sociological Association, founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions and use of sociology to society.

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About the American Sociological Association
The American Sociological Association (www.asanet.org), founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society.