Cairo court refuses bail to accused Britons

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor_@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 22 Oct 2002 21:25:47 +0100

Families fear men accused of trying to undermine Egyptian state will be
in jail until new year 

Three Britons arrested in Egypt for allegedly trying to overthrow the
state by spreading Islamist views will have to remain in prison until
the new year, their relatives fear, as the trial is unlikely to get
underway before the end of the holy month of Ramadan in December. 
A supreme court judge has refused them bail and defence lawyers have not
yet been given access to prosecution evidence. 

Reza Pankhurst, 27, an IT consultant, Ian Nisbet, 28, a convert to Islam
who worked as a website designer, and Maajid Nawaz, 24, a university
student, deny trying to overthrow the state by propagating the ideas of
a banned Islamic organisation, Hizb ut-Tahrir. A total of 26 defendants
are on trial. 

All three, who come from London and have young families, were arrested
on April 1. They have complained they were repeatedly tortured. 

"It's very frustrating. Everything is taking so long," said Zara
Pankhurst yesterday after delivering food to her son in Masreh-Tora
prison outside Cairo. 

"Their children haven't seen their fathers for seven months now. I know
every day my grandchildren leave home, they look at Reza's photo and say
'Bye Daddy'. They miss him so much. The children have been traumatised
by this." 

None of the three are fundamentalists, she insisted. "If Reza was like
that, he wouldn't talk to me. I wear a skirt cut above my knee and his
sister wears tattoos. Fundamentalists scorn their parents for not being
sufficiently Islamic. He's tolerant, he's not like that. 

"What is so illogical is the authorities claiming they were trying to
spread Islamic views: but all three had come here to learn Arabic, they
weren't proficient speakers. How could they spread these opinions in a
country where 99% of the people only speak Arabic, not English?" 

Abidah Nawaz, from South-end, Essex, who had not seen her son for a year
until the hearing on Sunday, said Maajid missed his family. "The night
he was arrested had already been disturbed," she explained. "Maajid was
up comforting his 18-month-old son who would not sleep when the police
broke in after cutting the telephone lines. As they seized him, Maajid
was still holding the child. One officer had to tell him: 'You can't
take your baby with you'." 

After the hearing on Sunday, the families were disappointed the judge
did not order that all three should be given access to an independent
medical expert. They are also concerned they might be tortured again. 

A spokesman for the British embassy in Cairo, which has lobbied hard to
improve the men's prison conditions, said yesterday he was surprised no
translator had been provided by the court: "We are glad, however, the
court has now agreed to appoint a translator for the next hearing on
October 28. We will continue to press the Egyptian authorities for a
response to our request for an investigation into the allegations of
torture." 

Judge Ahmed Ezzat Al-Ashmawy has ordered the prosecution to make
evidence available to defence lawyers, that more medical tests should be
carried out on the accused, and that two committees should examine the
books seized to check whether they violate standard sharia law or the
Egyptian constitution. 

Human rights groups warn that the Egyptian government has stepped up its
campaigns against Islamic groups since since September 11. 

Hizb ut-Tahrir in Britain says it is a peaceful movement which abhors
violence. 

If convicted under Egyptian emergency laws, the three Britons will have
no right of appeal except to President Mubarak.


Source: The Guardian 

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