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The Shame of Egypt - NY Times

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  • Zafar Khan
    The Shame of Egypt http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/31/opinion/31WED1.html?todaysheadlines President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt describes himself as America s
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1, 2002
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      The Shame of Egypt

      http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/31/opinion/31WED1.html?todaysheadlines

      President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt describes himself as
      America's leading Arab ally. Yet his anti-democratic
      behavior is an embarrassment to Washington and an
      affront to his own people. The latest example is
      Monday's re-sentencing of Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a
      sociologist and human rights activist, to seven years
      in prison for his efforts to register voters, monitor
      elections and report attacks on Egypt's Coptic
      Christians.

      Mr. Ibrahim, who holds joint United States and
      Egyptian citizenship, is 63 years old and ailing. The
      verdict should be annulled, not just on humanitarian
      grounds but because his prosecution is an abrogation
      of the most basic standards of justice. Mr. Ibrahim's
      harsh punishment sends a chilling message to Egyptians
      yearning for a more accountable and tolerant society.

      Egyptian courts are neither fair nor independent. Like
      every other government institution, they hew closely
      to Mr. Mubarak's wishes. That is especially true of
      the State Security Court that ruled in this case. Mr.
      Ibrahim might never have been tried had he not written
      an article taking note of Mr. Mubarak's efforts to
      create a presidential dynasty. Nor is it likely his
      sentence would have been reaffirmed if Mr. Mubarak
      believed that convicting an American citizen for
      promoting democracy and human rights might jeopardize
      his own standing with the Bush administration and the
      $2 billion annual American subsidy that keeps his
      government afloat.

      That aid bonanza was granted to reward Mr. Mubarak's
      predecessor, Anwar el-Sadat, for signing a peace
      treaty with Israel. Washington has never demanded good
      governance and democracy from Cairo in return. In
      recent months President Bush has spoken of the need to
      promote democracy in the Arab world. But so far he has
      pushed the point only with the Palestinians. It is
      time to extend this policy to Egypt.

      While hardly the worst example of dictatorship in the
      Middle East, Egypt is one of the saddest. It is a
      country with a long and glorious history, a
      substantial middle class, a peace treaty with Israel
      and large quantities of American aid. Under Mr.
      Mubarak it has squandered economic and diplomatic
      opportunities and relentlessly stifled political
      debate. Its official media are awash in anti-American
      and anti-Semitic propaganda.

      The State Department and American officials in Cairo
      have issued diplomatically phrased protests of Mr.
      Ibrahim's trial and sentence. This is entirely
      insufficient. What is needed is a message delivered
      personally by Mr. Bush and other top officials not
      only about the inexcusable treatment of Mr. Ibrahim
      but of the contemptuous approach to democratic values.




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