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EGYPT: Self-exiled human rights activist still needs to be cautious

May 26, 2009 |  1:00 pm


Even though his prison sentence has been overturned in court, human rights activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim still has to worry about several pending accusations, including treason.

An Egyptian appeals court Monday overturned Ibrahim's conviction of defaming Egypt and his two-year prison sentence. Speaking to the privately owned Al Mehwar satellite channel from his self-exile in the United States, Ibrahim said: “I am so happy about that, I feel optimistic and I hope this decision will open a new page.”

Ibrahim, a sociology professor and currently a visiting fellow at Harvard University, has been living in self-exile for almost two years. “I am thinking seriously to come back as soon as the semester at Harvard ends. This will be within days but provided that the lawyers tell me" I can.

But Ibrahim has other considerations. “I am accused of spying, and if convicted, I may be sentenced to 25 years in prison. If the general prosecutor does not freeze this case, my lawyers are warning me not to come back,” he added.

Ibrahim was convicted last year over an article he published in the Washington Post. In his opinion piece, Ibrahim implied that the United States should cut its aid to Egypt to push for political reforms. “Being tried for an article I wrote is very regressive, and it causes more harm to Egypt’s image than to mine,” said Ibrahim.

Ibrahim was sentenced to seven years in prison for similar charges in 2001. He spent 10 months in jail; however, he was acquitted by Egypt’s highest appellate court in 2003. The acquittal was linked to pressure by the Bush administration.

Some observers assumed the court's recent decision was a new goodwill gesture to President Obama,  who is set to visit Egypt next week.  

-- Noha El-Hennawy in Cairo

Photo: Saad Eddin Ibrahim. Credit: AFP/Getty Images