Egyptian activist to meet new US president in December

Egyptian activist to meet new US president in December

Egyptian Human Rights activist and long-term democracy advocate Saad Eddin Ibrahim said he would meet the new US president on December 6, with a delegation that represents several continents.

The sociology professor told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa in a telephone interview that “it has been agreed with the teams of both Democratic presidential candidate Barak Obama and his Republican rival John McCain to hold a meeting with whoever wins the election.”

Representatives from Europe, China, Africa, Latin America and the Arab world will meet the next president, with former US president Jimmy Carter and current incumbent George W Bush, to discuss US foreign policy and present the group”s diversified points of view.

“As an ex-president who has an influence on US policies, Carter requested holding this meeting to discuss with the new president US foreign policy, especially after the September 11 (2001) incident, which has affected human rights and democracy” in the place represented in the delegation, said Ibrahim, who holds dual Egyptian and US nationality.

Ibrahim, an opponent of Egyptian President Hosny Mubarak”s regime, was accused of “defaming Egypt” and sentenced in August in absentia to two years” imprisonment or to pay bail of 10,000 Egyptian pounds (1,800 dollars).

Ibrahim, 69, who lives in self-imposed exile, was accused of tarnishing Egypt”s image for writing a Washington Post column in which he outlined the Egyptian government”s human rights abuses.

He was also found guilty of trying to convince the US administration of tying economic aid to progress in political reform.

He was sentenced in 2001 to seven years for, again, “tarnishing Egypt”s reputation,” before being freed on appeal after spending 15 months behind bars.

Ibrahim said he prefers the Democratic candidate for US president, Obama, because Republican Bush, despite his good intentions at the beginning, has stopped supporting democracy after the Islamist Palestinian group Hamas won a large majority in the Palestinian parliament in 2006.

“We hope that supporting democracy in the Arab world would be a commitment in US policy and would not change with every new president,” said the founder of both the Ibn Khaldun Centre for Development Studies in Cairo and the Arab Organization for Human Rights.

Earlier this month, Ibrahim called upon the European Union (EU) to support the spread of democracy in Egypt and in the Arab region at the International Parliamentary Conference in Geneva.

Addressing EU representatives, Ibrahim assessed the political situation in the region, focusing on Egypt”s numerous setbacks and minimal efforts in applying democracy and emphasizing the importance of the role of the EU in the democratization of the Arab world.

“It would be in Europe”s interest to play a role in the development of the region, because any tension in the Middle East would affect them immediately due to the geographical connection.”

Ibrahim, who has been living in Qatar since June 2007, said the EU had posed several questions that revolved around the “inheritance of power” and the expected scenarios in the post-Mubarak era.

Mubarak”s youngest son, Gamal, is widely believed, both inside and outside of Egypt, to be the eventual successor to his father.

Ibrahim explained he had three expected scenarios for succession after Mubarak: the army taking over the government, inheritance of power or the formation of a provisional government comprised of members of all parties.

Ibrahim said he wants to return to Egypt as soon as possible, only “if President Mubarak issues a decree of presidential pardon” for him.

Recently, Mubarak issued a presidential pardon for outspoken Egyptian editor Ibrahim Eissa who was sentenced to two months in prison for reporting on the president”s health.

The editor was found guilty of publishing false news in 2007 about Mubarak”s health “in a way that damaged the national economy by encouraging capital flight.”

Despite his fear of returning to Egypt because of the sentence against him, Ibrahim said residing abroad does not get in the way of his political activism in human rights, democracy or writing for newspapers.

“There is nothing personal between me and the Egyptian president; I only hope he would be a true advocate of human rights and democracy,” Ibrahim said. (dpa)