Monday, May 25, 2009

AFP - Egypt court overturns dissident's jail term

CAIRO (AFP) — An appeals court overturned a two-year prison sentence against exiled Egyptian dissident Saad Eddin Ibrahim on Monday, after he had been convicted of defaming Egypt.

The court's decision was welcomed by Ibrahim, who has been in exile in the United States for the past two years.

"I feel happy. I got the first call from my wife to tell me about the news. I hope this is the beginning of a period of reconciliation with the regime and the entire Egypt opposition," he said over the phone from Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In August 2008, Ibrahim who also holds US citizenship, was sentenced in absentia to two years for "tarnishing Egypt's reputation" after a series of articles and speeches on citizenship and democracy in which he criticised the Egyptian regime.

Ibrahim, 71, told AFP he could still not return to the country, where his family lives, because of complaints filed against him to the prosecutor general by members of the ruling National Democratic Party.

"There are other cases that members of the NDP have filed against me. One of them is grand treason, which is being investigated by the attorney general," he said.

"I could be arrested on public appearance on return pending the investigation," said Ibrahim, a vocal critic of the rule of President Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power since 1981.

His court victory came less than two weeks before US President Barack Obama is due to deliver a landmark speech in Cairo that is to be addressed to the Muslim world.

The outspoken liberal activist in 2001 served 10 months of a seven-year prison sentence for "defaming Egypt" and accepting foreign funding without authorisation for his Ibn Khaldun Centre for Social and Developmental Studies.

No comments: