Al-Ahram Weekly Online   12 - 18 August 2010
Issue No. 1011
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Brief return

Saadeddin Ibrahim recently arrived in Cairo on a three-week visit for the first time in three years. Are matters settled between him and the Egyptian government, asks Mohamed Abdel-Baky

For more than three years, human rights activist Saadeddin Ibrahim was able to go to every country in the region except Egypt, the latter the only country he was dreaming of seeing.

Last week, Ibrahim arrived in Cairo from London and will stay for three weeks, visiting his family. For the past three years, Ibrahim has been living in the United States.

Ibrahim arrived with his American wife, Barbara Ibrahim. Some of his friends who were welcoming him at the airport said that airport officers finished his entry procedures in record time, allowing him to exit through customs area without any checks.

In 2000, Ibrahim was charged with embezzlement and tarnishing the image of Egypt in a series of trials and imprisonments that lingered for three years. He was later acquitted, but continued writing against the regime.

In 2007, he met former US president George W Bush and called for a stop to US aid to Egypt to pressure the regime to accept political reform. A number of cases were filed against him by private citizens, which forced him to leave the country for fear of arrest and imprisonment.

According to his lawyer, Shadi Talaat, there are nine suits filed against Ibrahim, all related to threatening national security and damaging the country's reputation. The latest complaint came this year when one lawyer accused Ibrahim of facilitating contact between the US administration and Mohamed El-Baradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

A close source to Ibrahim said he was very cautious in his interviews and meetings, in order not to anger the Egyptian security forces. His brother Ahmed, current director of the Ibn Khaldoun Centre for Development Studies, said Ibrahim's visit would be limited to family and meetings with employees at the centre. He said there were no prior arrangements for meetings with officials or opposition figures.

In his hometown of Al-Mansoura, some young Muslim Brotherhood members visited Ibrahim, while his brother said in media interviews that Ibrahim would not undertake any political activities during his visit. However, he would host some friends, including political figures, at his home.

In all interviews with the Egyptian media during his visit, there was one common question: "Did you make a deal with the Egyptian government before you returned to Egypt?" "I have never been in contact with any Egyptian official before I came or after my arrival. I came here because I am an Egyptian citizen. I know that there are risks, but I am willing to face it all," Ibrahim said.

An informed source told Al-Ahram Weekly that Ibrahim knew well that the Egyptian government understands that the Obama administration has taken a strategic decision not to interfere in Egyptian politics. "The Egyptian government knows that nobody in the current [US] administration would listen to Ibrahim... so any clashes between him and the Egyptian government would not be in his favour," the source added.

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