Last edited: December 08, 2004

Rights Group: Egypt Using War to Hide Abuses, October 12, 2001

By Paul Johnson

WASHINGTON—International human rights groups are warning the United States to be wary of embracing Egypt in the war against terrorism.

The groups say it "legitimizes" Egypt’s own record on rights and sends the wrong message to the region.

Human Rights Watch said that an alliance with Egypt would be counter-effective.

"Egyptian officials appear to be counting on the U.S. administration to overlook widespread torture, wholesale jailing of critics, and other forms of repression as it builds a coalition to respond to the Sept. 11 attacks," Human Rights Watch said.

HRW and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission have protested the ongoing trial of 52 Egyptian suspected gays prosecuted on charges of obscenity and insulting religion.

The arrests came during a raid on a riverboat in the Nile that reportedly functioned as a gay club. They are being tried in a state security court usually reserved for terrorists, an indication of how Egypt views homosexuality.

The men claim to have been beaten and routinely tortured with cattle prods in jail. A verdict is expected later this month. The decision of the court cannot be appealed.

A juvenile has already been sentenced to a term in a youth facility.

Rights groups in Egypt and abroad also have denounced the conviction of an Egyptian-American human rights activist sentenced in May to seven years in prison.

The activist, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a sociologist with Egyptian and American citizenship, was sentenced on charges including tarnishing Egypt’s image, embezzlement and accepting foreign money without state approval. The case has been appealed.

Human Rights Watch earlier protested the arrest of Farid Zahran, a leading member of the Egyptian People’s Committee for Solidarity with the Palestinian Uprising. Zahran was detained Sept. 20 on suspicion of disseminating information aimed at disturbing public order and of planning public marches. He was later released.

Emergency laws have been in force in Egypt since the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat. The government says it needs them to fight Muslim militants.

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