Speaking out for justice and human rights: Exclusive Interview by Dr. Ashraf Abdelghaffer .

Speaking out for justice and human rights: Exclusive Interview by Dr. Ashraf Abdelghaffer .

Around the world people are celebrating a movement of change in Tunisia and were remembering Dr. Martin Luther King for his contribution to the Civil Rights Movement in America.  The people of Tunisia and those that participated in the American Civil Rights Movement called and struggled for change, and the implementation and protection of human rights.  There are many places, people and movements that we can point to where struggle continues today for the basic rights that all humans are supposed to be granted under international law, and are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  


Egypt is another place where the people have been struggling for a long time for their basic human rights.  In a rare interview, Dr. Ashraf Abdelghaffar, Secretary General Vice of the Egyptian Medical Syndicate and a Muslim Brotherhood leader, speaks out from Turkey on the reality of the so-called “International Muslim Brotherhood Networking Case” and the High State Security Court’s decision against him and others.

The Egyptian government has been accused and criticized by international human rights agencies and governments around the world, including the United States, for human rights abuses against its people.  Cases and incidents of torture, due process violations, and the use of violence or threat thereof to prevent against political criticism of any kind are well documented.  This is especially the case for political opposition figures and its supporters. 


The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is one of the largest banned political opposition groups that has significant support from the masses.  Ideologically diverse, the Brotherhood calls for dialogue and cooperation, equal opportunities, justice, political participation and reform; it strives to eliminate hunger, disease and unemployment.  Its political opposition figures have been subjected to harassment, imprisonment and torture since the implementation of the State Emergency Laws more than 30 years ago.  False charges and cases tried in secret are not unusual.  The so-called “International Muslim Brotherhood Networking Case” is just one of many.   

{Q} Could you please explain to the readers more about the International MB Network Case?

{Dr. Ashraf} The case began in the summer of 2009, with the Egyptian government making many accusations against and arresting some of the MB leaders.  While traveling from Cairo to Turkey, according to my usual schedule, I reported to the State Security Office at the airport to inform them of my travels so that the normal checks on the luggage could be conducted.  They arrested and detained me for 48 hours and confiscated all my documents.

Detention and confiscation of documents by security is not unusual in Egypt.  The international community and media were buzzing over the detention of bloggers in 2009, especially Wael Abbas.  Abbas was well known in the international community for his reporting on torture cases and police abuses.  

When I was taken to the State Security Prosecutor, it was there I was accused of participating in the International Muslim Brotherhood Network, which they considered a crime. The second accusation made was that, on 2nd of January, I collected donations totaling 2 million Sterling to support the needy people in Gaza.  This farfetched accusation was impossible, as my passport indicated I had been in Egypt for the whole period from December 2008 to February 2009.   During that period, I was committed to working with the Egyptian Medical Syndicate as a Secretary General Vice.  As part of my position, I was involved in assisting the management of the Human Relief Agency.

{Q} Is this case linked to reality?

{Dr. Ashraf} No, the case is totally out of order. While the prosecutors were questioning me, they were filling in the gaps.  They knew in reality there was no case; they were merely waiting for orders to tell them whether to continue with our detention or to grant our release.   

{Q} Was money laundering taking place as claimed?

{Dr. Ashraf} No, there was not even a small amount of money laundered.  I even asked the State Security Office how this money was transferred and where it was now. They could not answer.

{Q} What was the reason behind the arrests and case?

{Dr. Ashraf} No one knows the real reason as to why we were arrested.  It is common practice for the Egyptian State Security to arrest individuals on fictitious charges to instill fear in the larger public.  During this particular time period there were many cries among the masses in Egypt to aid the besieged women, children and elderly in Gaza.  There were also many initiatives led by ordinary, regular Egyptians to help their Palestinian brothers and sisters.  It is possible that the government wanted to create fear among the Egyptian public to prevent them from helping Gaza.  Simultaneously, I am sure the government wanted to attempt to further harm the image of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood.  As you know, the Muslim Brotherhood is one of the largest opposition groups in Egypt.  The government continues to harass its leaders and members due to its popularity among the people. 

 The potential causes given of why we were arrested are mere speculation, but the facts remain that the charges were false and the story they provided was unrealistic.  The State Security Office regularly causes problems for anyone and everyone at will and without reason in order to maintain a sense of fear in the Egyptian public and to justify its State of Emergency.  The international community may remember the sad story of the young man, Khalid Said, who was brutally murdered by Egyptian Security police for doing nothing more than refusing to show his identification papers.  There are too many cases, and international agencies have numerous reports on human rights violations such as the use of torture, lack of due process, and lack of freedom of speech to name only a few of the many.   

 {Q} How long were you in prison?


{Dr. Ashraf} I stayed for nearly 6 months, regularly going every 15 days to the High State Security Prosecution. It was normal for them to renew the case by asking questions and answering on my behalf.

{Q} When were you released and why?

{Dr. Ashraf} I was released by the end of November 2009.  Just like my arrest, the reasons for release at that particular time remain obscure.  They transferred me to the normal court when freed and I was found innocent. 

{Q} How many people were involved in the case and were they freed too?

{Dr. Ashraf} There were around 36 involved in the case.  While almost all were freed, three others and I were the very last to be released.  Dr. Osama Soliman continued to be held in prison despite the case having been cleared and finished.   

{Q} Why was the case reopened?

{Dr. Ashraf} We were astonished to learn the case had been reopened. This time there were five from the Muslim Brotherhood, three of whom were living abroad, and one non-Egyptian.  They wanted to prosecute the non-Egyptian citizen under the Security Status law.  Dr. Osama Soliman was the only one in Egypt at the time and was on bail, despite his bad health condition.

{Q} Were the accusations similar to when the case was originally opened in 2009?

{Dr. Ashraf} Yes, there were no new accusations.  I was being charged for the very same things that I had been cleared of in a normal court of law. 

{Q} Why do you think you were freed and then accused a second time?

{Dr. Ashraf} While the exact reasons cannot be known, it is my opinion that since the state security failed to obtain the results it wanted, which was our conviction, in a normal court of law, they arranged a special court procedure to achieve their goals. In this instance, none of us were able to appeal against or question the Special Court’s decision.

{Q} What is your next step?

{Dr. Ashraf} We will take all necessary actions against these awful and unfair decisions; we will pursue them through the European courts and the human rights’ commissions.   It is not only for justice in our cases, but for all Egyptians that we seek to take this matter above and beyond Egypt.  All Egyptians, at any time, can be subjected to these human rights violations.  Egyptians deserve the basic human rights that are enshrined in international law; they deserve to free from injustice, oppression, suppression and repression.  A government that does not respect the basic human rights of its people, and intentionally attempts to thwart them, is not stable.  Like the people of Tunisia, the Egyptian masses will one day say enough is enough.  They want freedom and human rights for all to be the foundation of the system of governance, where justice is protected and injustice is prevented.