CAIRO: A group of faculty members from the American University in Cairo (AUC) are organizing a protest on Dec. 1 against the continued detainment of their colleague Ihab Atta.
A committee was formed in support of Atta, an AUC instructor and graduate student who has been detained for two years.
The group said they will protest against the “injustice Atta is subjected to, a member of the committee told Daily News Egypt on condition on anonymity.
Atta is currently being held in Wadi Al-Natroun Prison, Said Al-Wakil, an AUC professor, previously told Daily News Egypt.
Atta is allegedly being held without “any charges and without a trial, a committee member who is one of Atta’s instructors said.
“I am 100 percent sure that Atta is innocent, the committee member said, adding that security forces were unaware that he is a faculty member and graduate student at AUC, implying that they did not know who he was in the first place.
“Although he used to come to AUC five days a week, they had no clue that he works and studies there . they did not have that in his file, he said.
The Committee to Defend Ihab Atta, which is comprised of 35 faculty members of AUC’s Arabic Language Institute (ALI) – to which Atta belongs – is seeking heavy media coverage of the scheduled protest.
The student-run weekly newspaper of AUC, the Caravan, previously reported that Atta disappeared in spring 2007.
Daily News Egypt learned that although Atta has no history of political or religious activity, he was interrogated once by police in 2004 over the arrest of a student at the American Open University, affiliated with Al-Azhar University, where he used to teach at the time.
A source close to Atta claims that was arrested due to a personal grudge held by the officer who had interrogated him in 2004.
Other reports suggest that he was put under State Security surveillance after attending a party in spring 2007 whose host had attempted to join a jihadi movement in Iraq.
The party was allegedly thrown in Atta’s honor after he was appointed professor at Ain Shams University and was attended by some of his colleagues from the American Open University.
The committee member and AUC professor claims that Atta was physically assaulted – namely with electric shock – when he was arrested. He added that Atta has been subject to psychological abuse as well and that his health has since severely deteriorated.
Another member of the committee told Daily News Egypt that Atta’s family’s efforts to secure his release were futile. First they petitioned to “well-connected people in high-ranking positions, but when nothing came of it, they turned to the ALI department and university administration for help.
“They [Atta’s family] were initially concerned about their son’s reputation but when they found out that his health is in jeopardy, they broke their silence, he added.
Atta, according to the source, went on two hunger strikes last April.
Other sources at AUC criticized the Committee to Defend Ihab Atta for not standing their ground.
The sources claimed that the committee suspended its activities after being approached by the university’s administration following a sit-in they staged two weeks ago. They allege that AUC administration asked the committee to refrain from protesting or involve the media, and promised to negotiate with security forces for Atta s release.
The AUC administration refused to comment on the issue, and the committee denied these allegations.
“We wanted to approach the Ministry of Interior and security officials on a personal level…[we] did not want to give the impression that we are turning it into a public opinion case, a committee member said.
The committee reportedly sent two petitions, one to the Ministry of Interior and and another to President Hosni Mubarak.
The Committee to Defend Ihab Atta is urging the university’s Student Union and as well as AUC president David Arnold to get involved.
“We ask President Arnold to get personally involved in the issue and hold a meeting with the committee to come up with ways to contact the Ministry of Interior and demand Atta’s release and we ask the Student Union to participate with us in any activity we organize, the source said.
Mohamed Ali, AUC Student Union president, told Daily News Egypt that he is going to meet with Al-Wakil, member of the committee and ALI professor, next Tuesday to discuss how they can cooperate to resolve the matter.
“We have no official stance on the issue, but we are there to help any member of the AUC community, Ali said.