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EGYPT: Dissident returns for the first time after three years of self-imposed exile

August 5, 2010 |  9:10 am

6a00d8341c630a53ef011570a6a528970b-800wi Egyptian American human-rights activist and democracy campaigner Saad Eddin Ibrahim, who spent three years in self-imposed exile following intense pressure from the Egyptian government, has returned to Cairo.

Ibrahim, a vocal critic of President Hosni Mubarak in recent years, has lived in the U.S since 2007 to avoid, he says, lengthy court battles and potential imprisonment as a result of lawsuits filed against him by private citizens with alleged ties to the regime.

"This is a family visit, a homecoming. I'm looking forward to quietly meeting my former students, friends and family," the 71-year-old told the Associated Press upon arriving at the Cairo airport Wednesday evening.

Ibrahim, the founder of the Ibn Khaldoun Center for Development Studies and a former professor of sociology at the American University in Cairo, was previously indicted for "tarnishing Egypt's image." He served 10 months in jail before he won an appeal and was released in 2003 in a case that drew worldwide protests and was condemned by the U.S.

He was similarly convicted of defaming Egypt in 2008 before his lawyers succesfully appealed the verdict. Ibrahim's lawyer said his client, despite having nine outstanding complaints against him, was assured by Egypt's general prosecutor that he was not on a wanted list. Ibrahim had no problem getting through passport checks at Cairo airport.

A family member told The Times that Ibrahim had no ongoing convictions against him, adding that the activist aimed to keep a low profile and avoid talking to the media during his two-week stay in Egypt.

Ibrahim has long been a strong advocate of various human-rights causes in Egypt, especially protecting religious minorities such as Copts. He was one of the first Egyptians to voice fears over the potential succession of power from Hosni Mubarak to his son, Gamal Mubarak, in the 2011 presidential election.

Through his writings in a number of international, Arab and local newspapers, Ibrahim continued his denouncement of Mubarak's rule and Egypt's dismal record on both democracy and human rights. In 2007, as reported in the Washington Post, Ibrahim called on the U.S to cut its aid to Egypt to pressure Mubarak into more reforms.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: Saad Eddin Ibrahim. Credit: Agence France-Presse