One critic is pardoned, another is left in prison, a third is in exile writing missives and giving speeches that chafe Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
The forgiven critic is Ibrahim Issa, an independent newspaper editor and relentless government detractor who was sentenced to two years in jail for printing stories in 2007 that suggested Mubarak was ill and near death. In announcing the pardoning of Issa earlier this month, the 80-year-old Egyptian president said he wanted to “affirm his concern for freedom of opinion.”
Such concern has not been granted Ayman Nour, the leader of the Tomorrow Party, who has been in jail since 2005. He was charged with forging political documents, but his conviction was widely criticized by human rights groups as a less than veiled attempt to silence opposition to Mubarak’s 27-year-rule.
A jail cell awaits dissident Saad Eddin Ibrahim. The sociology professor was sentenced in absentia to two years in prison for tarnishing Egypt’s reputation and urging Congress to make nearly $2 billion in U.S. aid to Egypt contingent upon progress toward political reform.
The sagas of Issa, Nour and Ibrahim are similar to hundreds of narratives unfolding in courtrooms and prisons across the country.
Activists, writers, bloggers, labor organizers and members of the Muslim Brotherhood are routinely harassed and arrested.
The squeeze on civil liberties bothers Salama A. Salama, whose recent column in Al Ahram weekly states:
“Justice is indivisible and human rights are not bargaining chips, especially when Egypt"s international image on this matter is riddled with holes and when some people are demanding that a democracy advocate, however wild his claims, be stripped of his Egyptian nationality and driven into exile, something that has only happened in Egypt under Ottoman rule and the British occupation.”
Photos: Top: Jailed opposition leader Ayman Nour. Credit: Agence France-Presse. Bottom: Human rights activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim. Agence France-Presse