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Egypt: Human rights defender / prisoner of conscience: Hafez Abu Sa'ada

, Index number: MDE 12/057/1998

Hafez Abu Sa'ada, a lawyer and leading human rights defender, was arrested because of his human rights work on 1 December 1998 and ordered by the courts to be detained for 15 days.

PUBLIC AI Index: MDE 12/57/98
UA 304/98 Human rights defender / Prisoner of
conscience 2 December 1998
EGYPTHafez Abu Sa’ada, Secretary General of the Egyptian Organization for Human
Rights
Hafez Abu Sa’ada, a lawyer and leading human rights defender, was arrested
because of his human rights work on 1 December 1998 and ordered by the courts
to be detained for 15 days.
Amnesty International believes this is a move by the authorities to hamper
the work of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), of which Hafez
Abu Sa’ada is Secretary General. This would also prevent him attending a Human
Rights Defenders’ Conference in Paris next week in celebration of the 50th
anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
As Hafez Abu Sa’ada has been arrested because of his human rights work Amnesty
International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience. He is currently
detained at Istiqbal Tora Prison, south of Cairo. If tried and convicted he
could face between seven and fifteen years imprisonment with hard labour.
Hafez Abu Sa’ada was arrested after he appeared as a witness in a court- hearing
about EOHR financing. He is accused of "accepting funds from a foreign country
with the aim of fulfilling acts that would harm Egypt, receiving donations
without obtaining permission from the competent authorities [and of]
disseminating false information abroad that would harm the country’s national
interests". Amnesty International believes his arrest is a result of recent
high-profile campaigns by the EOHR.
In August and September this year the EOHR published two reports. The first,
about deaths in custody in Egyptian prisons, resulted in Hafez Abu Sa’ada being
briefly detained.
The second concerned at least 20 torture cases of Coptic Christians in the
village of al-Kushh, Upper Egypt, during an investigation by the security forces
into the murder of two Coptic Christians in August. In its report, EOHR
denounced the random arrests and torture. EOHR also emphasised the increasing
use of torture by the security forces in criminal cases against both Muslims
and Christians.
In October an English newspaper published a highly emotive and factually
questionable article concerning the events in al-Kushh village, resulting in
a public outcry in Egypt. This culminated in an article by the weekly Egyptian
newspaper, al-Usbu’, accusing EOHR of treason and linking a donation of $25,000
by the British Embassy to EOHR, to the article in the English newspaper.
Human rights organizations in Egypt have received funds from foreign
institutions and governments for many years. The Egyptian authorities are
aware of such funding arrangements and no organization has so far been prosecuted
for receiving funds from abroad.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/faxes/express/airmail letters in
Arabic, English, French or in your own language:
2
- expressing concern at the arrest of Hafez Abu Sa’ada on 1 December 1998 and
urging that he be immediately and unconditionally released as a prisoner of
conscience;
- seeking assurances that while in detention he be treated humanely, in
accordance with international standards for the treatment of detainees, and
that he be given immediate access to his family and lawyers;
- calling on the Egyptian authorities to ensure that all human rights defenders
in the country are allowed to work and campaign freely;
- reminding the government of Egypt of its commitment to the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, in particular Article 19:"everyone has the right
to freedom of opinion and expression".
APPEALS TO:
His Excellency Faruq Sayf al-Nasr
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice
Midan Lazoghly, Cairo, Egypt
Telegrams: Minister Sayf al-Nasr, Cairo, Egypt
Faxes: + 202 355 5700
Salutation: Dear Minister
COPIES TO:
Ms Nayla Gabr
The Human Rights Department
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Corniche al-Nil, Cairo, Egypt
Faxes: + 202 574 9533
Mr Raga’ al-’Arabi
Public Prosecutor
Dar al-Qadha al-’Ali
Ramses Street, Cairo, Egypt
Faxes: + 202 574 0881
and to diplomatic representatives of Egypt accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 12 January 1999.
"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression"
Article 9 , Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Visit the Amnesty International UDHR campaign website on http://www.amnesty.excite.com

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