Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
26 April - 2 May 2001
Issue No.531
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Current issue | Previous issue | Site map

Defending the defendants

THE SUPREME State Security Court has adjourned until 19 May hearings of the high profile case of American University in Cairo (AUC) professor Saadeddin Ibrahim and 27 associates, reports Khaled Dawoud.

Due to the large number of defendants, the court was unable to conclude hearing the presentations of all lawyers involved in the case within six days. Once the lawyers have completed their defence, the court will determine a date for pronouncing judgements.

Except for one attorney whose defence of his client amounted to an attack on Ibrahim, the lawyers attempted to refute the prosecution's case on legal grounds. They said prosecutors did not present evidence proving any wrongdoing by the defendants and sharply criticised the fact that defendants are being tried according to the Emergency Law, in force since 1981. Sentences handed down on the basis of the Emergency Law cannot be appealed and need only be ratified by the president or the prime minister.

Ibrahim, director of the Ibn Khaldoun Centre for Developmental Studies, was accused, along with four of his associates, of offering bribes to employees at television and radio stations to publicise his name and that of the centre. He was also charged with receiving foreign funding from the European Union, in violation of a military decree that requires government permission in advance; spreading false information abroad on the conduct of parliamentary elections and the status of Christians and embezzlement. The rest of the defendants were primarily accused of embezzlement by issuing false voting cards that were to be shown to the EU to justify funding of a project aimed at encouraging Egyptians to take part in parliamentary elections.

Princess not above law

EGYPTIAN authorities on Monday defended themselves against public criticism for failing to arrest Saudi Princess Hend Al-Fassi. The princess was sentenced on 28 February, in absentia, to three years imprisonment with hard labour for a million-dollar jewel theft, but she was not arrested.

"The verdict against Princess Hend Al-Fassi cannot be carried out because it is not final and she has the right to appeal," responded Ahmed Sawan, deputy interior minister for judicial affairs, to questions raised in parliament. MP Heshmat Fahmi raised the issue of "negligence by the authorities to apply the law against the princess."

"Princess Hend Al-Fassi did not leave the country and is still in Egypt, where she does not enjoy diplomatic immunity," Sawan added. The princess lives in a luxury downtown hotel.

The owners of a Cairo jewellery store filed a lawsuit against the princess in January, alleging that her cook had disappeared with a sample of jewels worth millions of pounds, which he was supposed to have taken to his employer. Samer Mokaled, a Lebanese national who also received three years imprisonment with hard labour, had told the police that he handed the jewels over to the princess. In 1999, servants working for the princess tried to escape from a hotel window, claiming that they had not been paid and that they had been prevented from leaving the premises.

Visitors allowed

THE ADMINISTRATIVE Court, handing down judgements in 11 cases, ruled in favour of visiting rights at three high-security prisons -- two in Torah, south of Cairo, and the third in Abu-Zaabal, north of the capital.

The Human Rights Centre for Assistance of Prisoners had filed the lawsuits against the minister of the interior for his decision forbidding visiting rights at the three prisons. The minister's decision was based on article 42 of the Prisons Law, which stipulates that visits can be banned for security or health reasons.

However, the court rulings confirmed that "banning visits entirely is not the intention of article 42." The court stated that the prisoners have the right to see their families and that "depriving the prisoners of their legitimate rights would be inhuman and psychologically harmful." The 11 new rulings raise to 96 the number of lawsuits won by the centre. "None of the rulings has been carried out," however, according to the centre's statement.

Browsing at Dar Al-Kutub

AFTER a year of hard work, the National Library and Archives of Egypt (Dar Al-Kutub) is now on the Internet. Nevine El-Aref attended the opening ceremony on Monday.

The Web site, the first of its kind in the Arab world, was inaugurated by Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni, with Dar Al-Kutub head Samir Gharib and other cultural dignitaries attending. The site, in English, French and Arabic, displays an overview of the library building itself, its history, its former directors and the treasures it contains. Furthermore, any user can order a book or a gift via the Web site.

A small exhibition, showing hard copies of some unique and distinguished manuscripts and books, was also inaugurated. It includes old prints of El-Kawakeb magazine, tales of Alf Leila Wa Leila and papers of the Torah.

Compiled by Shaden Shehab

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