MAS Condemns Arrest of Ikhwanweb Editor and Crackdown on Activists
In a show of increasing desperation, Egyptian government security forces arrested Khaled Hamza on February 20, 2008. Hamza, the manager of the Cairo office of Ikwanweb, is an internationally known activist and opponent of the Mubarak government”s attempt to use military tribunals as instruments of attacks against both religious and secular opponents of the current regime.
According to Egyptian sources, the arrest came after Hamza met with Violit Dagher, the chairperson of the Paris-based Arab Commission for Human Rights. Dr. Dagher”s visit to Cairo includes his participation in a campaign seeking to highlight the human rights abuses committed by the Egyptian government that are evident in the prosecution of dissidents in the military tribunals. Currently, some 39 Islamic activists are among numerous secular and religious opponents of the Mubarak regime facing trials by military tribunals – many of whom were previously exonerated by civilian courts.
Verdicts from these tribunals are expected by February 28, 2008. Khaled Hamza, who is an engineer by profession, had been instrumental in exposing the conduct of the military tribunals to a large community of international media and human rights advocacy organizations, including MAS Freedom, the civic and human rights advocacy entity of the Muslim American Society.
Four delegations of Muslim, interfaith, and human rights leaders have traveled to Cairo seeking to monitor the tribunals, including anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, former Congressman and civil rights leader Reverend Walter Fauntroy, National Lawyers Guild former president Bruce Nestor, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Amman Al-Qurbi of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, and MAS Freedom Executive Director, Imam Mahdi Bray. In traveling to Egypt the delegations have sought to express strong opposition to the use of military tribunals and military courts in general, in an attempt to usurp the legitimate power of a independent, civilian-based judicial system.
The human rights delegations have also previously met with Kefaya, the coalition associated with jailed opposition leader Ayman Nur, and other religious and secular organizations calling for justice and true democracy in Egypt. Some Egyptian opposition leaders noted that the timing of Hamza”s arrest was an apparent attempt, on the part of the Mubarak government, to silence both the growing tide of international criticism of the tribunals and the independent media voices that focus on them. The current wave of arrests and crackdowns is apparently also timed to coincide with Egyptian national elections scheduled for this spring.
A coalition of American human rights and religious activists are lobbying congress for a congressional resolution that will focus on Egypt”s crackdown on political opposition and human rights abuses. On returning from his recent visit, Fauntroy moved to call upon the 42 members of the Congressional Black Caucus for hearings on Egypt. “The Egyptian government has hitched its wagon to an administration that will soon be out of office – an administration leaving with an abysmal human rights and foreign policy record. Given the upcoming U.S. election it might be diplomatically prudent for Egypt to mend its ways now,” Fauntroy stated.