CAIRO: One of Egypt s most outspoken government critics, Egyptian-American academic Saad Eddin Ibrahim, said he cannot return to the country of his birth for fear of arrest or worse, amid a government crackdown on dissidents.
In an opinion piece that appeared Tuesday in the Washington Post, the 68-year-old sociologist described a regime cracking down on all forms of opposition in order to engineer an unpopular father-son succession.
Sadly, this regime has strayed so far from the rule of law that, for my own safety, I have been warned not to return to Egypt, he wrote. Regime insiders and those in Cairo s diplomatic circles have said that I will be arrested or worse.
One of Egypt s best known democracy advocates, Ibrahim was among the first to publicly criticize the grooming of the president s son to succeed him and was jailed for tarnishing Egypt s reputation before the charges were overturned.
Ibrahim s wife Barbara, an American citizen, said that the threat takes the form of lawsuits and complaints filed by private citizens that could enmesh the scholar in court battles for years and even land him back in jail.
We know of at least nine, so obviously that s the kind of regime overkill that they love to do, she told the Associated Press from her home in Cairo Wednesday. Almost all of them involve accusations of treason and undermining the economic interests of the country.
Private law suits by pro-government individuals have been used against other anti-regime figures such as former opposition presidential candidate Ayman Nour who was imprisoned in 2005 and still has dozens of cases pending against him.
Ibrahim is currently in Virginia and according to his wife has no immediate plans to return to his position as a sociology professor at the American University in Cairo.
I think these investigations stay open for at least six months during which time the charges can be formally brought, so he will stay outside for at least six months, if not longer, Barbara Ibrahim said.
An Egyptian security official on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press confirmed that neither the police nor the prosecutor s office have any case against Ibrahim, but he knew of at least three of these suits brought by individuals.
The complaints accuse Ibrahim of harming national interests by convincing the US Congress to cut Egypt s aid, the official said.
In May, the US House of Representatives tabled legislation to withhold $200 million (euro 154 million) in military aid until Cairo takes steps to curb police abuses and stop arms smuggling into the neighboring Gaza Strip.
The United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) said that the attack was probably part of a series of raids on villages in the Jebel Marra region because the local population had apparently sympathized with rebel groups that hadn’t signed the Darfur Peace Agreement with the Sudanese government.
The statement said that the government was directly responsible for the actions of its military and that it must bring to justice any individuals who had committed crimes of such a grievous nature.
The report named specific officers within the army who were responsible for leading or authorizing the attacks. It stated that if the accusations proved to be correct then the individuals in question ought to be sent to the International Criminal Court.
“If rape, sexual slavery or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity are committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against civilians, [they] can constitute a crime against humanity, and potentially fall within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, it stated.
When asked if the Sudanese government planned to follow up on these accusations, a representative from the Sudanese embassy in Egypt, Abdrel Malik Al Naim, told Daily News Egypt only that “the government of Sudan follows up on all accusations against its military.
In addition, Maher Nasser, director of the United Nations Information Center in Cairo, said that when accusations like this are made, “one expects the concerned government to follow up.
He added that there “have been many stories in Darfur of displaced people and refugees being abused like this.
More than 200,000 people have been killed and over 2 million displaced since the conflict between rebel groups, government forces, and militias broke out in 2003. Last month the UN Security Council approved the deployment of a hybrid UN-African Union force to put an end to the violence.
The Egyptian government at the time blasted the proposed US legislation as an unacceptable interference in Egypt s internal affairs and in July, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit warned Washington of the Egyptian people s wrath if it continued meddling.
Since the move followed only a few days after Ibrahim spoke with US President George W. Bush at a summit for international dissidents, the activist believes the Egyptian government holds him responsible.
I was solely to blame, according to the regime. Would that I had a fraction of the influence attributed to me by the state-controlled media! wrote Ibrahim, who in the past has advocated cutting the $1.3 billion (940 million euro) US military aid to Egypt to pressure for democratic reforms.
Ibrahim was arrested and charged in 2000 for smearing the country s reputation abroad and embezzling foreign funding in a three-year odyssey of trials and appeals that ultimately resulted in the academic s acquittal after spending years in jail.
The article comes during a period of political crackdown in Egypt with 40 leading members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood facing military trial and dozens of others arrested on an almost weekly basis.
The country s security services are also coming under increasing criticism for their heavy handed tactics against not only suspected terrorists but also during ordinary criminal investigations.
A report released earlier this month by the Egyptian Organization of Human Rights said that the abuse and torture of Egyptians by their security forces has become increasingly common, citing hundreds of cases over the last decade.
In remarks carried late on Tuesday night by the official Middle East News Agency, Interior Minister Habib El-Adly said his institution has always been vigilant against violations of human rights.
Immediate prosecution is the constant method of the Interior Ministry against any individual violating human rights, he said. Associated Press