Charity Law

Case Notes: Middle East and North Africa


The International Journal
of Not-for-Profit Law

Volume 3, Issue 1, September 2000


Statement of Dr. Saadeddin Ibrahim- October 1st, 2000

The following is a recent statement released by Dr. Saadeddin Ibrahim.  Due to the ‘trial by newspaper’ that has unfolded in relation to this case, Dr. Ibrahim has stated that he will not make further statements to the press for the duration of his trial.  Recent reports from Egypt indicate that Dr. Ibrahim will be tried before a South Cairo Security Court on four charges: accepting funds from the EU without official government permission; intentionally harming Egypt’s image abroad; agreeing to bribe government employees; and colluding to defeaud the EU of grant funds.  A security court judge’s decision may only be appealed on procedural grounds-  a finding of guilt or innocence is not subject to appeal. A trial date of November 18, 2000 has been set.

I returned home in August from 45 days in an Egyptian prison believing that justice had been served. I thought that every accusation against me and the Ibn Khaldun Center had been fully and forcefully answered, and as a result that the legal case would be dropped. I began to resume my lawful activities as a professor, a writer, and a participant in civil society.

In the weeks that followed, I had the opportunity to review the full extent of Egyptian press and television coverage of the case. I was horrified to see the extent of misinformation, false leaks from the interrogations, and disregard for the facts. Documenting problems in our society had become ‘defaming its image’, accepting a development contract to encourage voter participation became ‘working as a foreign agent’, etc. Not once had any Egyptian newspaper contacted my family, lawyers, or associates to verify information before it was published. Never once did they quote from my published work.

The media attacks and investigation had the effect of poisoning public opinion against civil society groups sincerely working to expand democratic participation in Egypt. I was saddened to learn of the fear that has spread through the research and NGO communities, leading to cancellation of many activities and closure of some organizations.

While in prison, it was not possible to speak out in defense of myself or Ibn Kahldun Center. Once freed, I felt obligated to answer those who had so completely misrepresented our case. In this process we were denied access to the mainstream Egyptian press. Worse, my recent public statements have been widely misreported.

This is particularly true of a lecture I gave at the start of the academic year to students and faculty at their request. I chose a light title for the talk- How I Spent my Summer Vacation: Diary of a Prisoner of Conscience. The lecture included praise for some State actors and criticism of others. I noted that the High Court ruling of July 8th assured proper judicial monitoring of upcoming elections during the balloting process. I encouraged students to become more involved citizens, just as other public figures have been doing prominently for several weeks. I also offered training for those who were interested in observing the pre-balloting phase of this election, which comprises filing of candidacy and local campaigning.

These statements were apparently misreported to higher authorities. Now as a result, the case has been reactivated, and will go to trial in a High State Security Court. The charges as we understand them (they have yet to be issued in writing) will prove a great embarrassment to Egypt. Among other things, they implicate one of our country’s leading international development partners in allegations that are without any legal substance.

I am furthermore concerned about the way in which the last round of this case has unfolded, which insults the intelligence of all Egyptians. After five weeks of relative press silence, another orchestrated attack erupted on September 22nd and 23rd. On the third day the Attorney General held a press conference announcing formal charges against me and my fellow workers at Ibn Khaldun. Those who may have believed the claim that this case is strictly criminal and not political, had only to read the daily newspapers to understand the truth.

I now view this not simply as a trial of Saad Eddin Ibrahim and Ibn Khaldun Center. It is a test of whether Egypt’s civil society can survive and thrive – or will be muzzled and intimidated as suggested in the recent report of Amnesty International. For this reason, I have decided to devote my full attention to preparations for the trial. This will require freezing all other public activities for some time, including my role in the Independent Commission for Election Review. I am confident that a new generation of Egyptians will carry on that mission, knowing that democracy everywhere requires courage and vigilance.

I am calling on the media in Egypt to refrain from further sensationalizing of this case, and will myself not make further statements to the press for the duration of the trial. With faith in Egypt’s judicial process, we now concentrate on restoring the honor of Ibn Khaldun Center, its leaders and associates.