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Report on the Case of Dr. Saad Eddin Mohamed Ibrahim Imprisoned Sociologist Cairo, Egypt
emphasize the fact of the delegates' presence in Cairo and at the trial. The Ibrahims and their supporters considered this effort to have been a useful exercise.
VI. Effects of the Prosecution on the Human Rights and Civil SocietyCommunity in Egypt
Professor Ibrahim has been influential among the intelligentsia of Egyptian society and has had access to the highest levels of government. His arrest has had a chilling effect on those promoting civil and human rights. To quote one individual whom the delegates interviewed, “If it [arrest and charges] could happen to Professor Saad Eddin Ibrahim, it could happen to anybody.” The CHR's delegates encountered this atmosphere of intimidation themselves when attempting to recruit a translator-interpreter from among the students at the American University in Cairo. Their contact at the university reported that the students who were approached were uncomfortable about the potential consequences of becoming involved in this case.
Perhaps the most negative effect of the prosecution to date has been on the small, but once quite active, human rights organizations and private research groups in Egypt. After the arrest of Professor Ibrahim, the board of the Egyptian Human Rights Organization voted to return at least some of its foreign grants, close down offices in space rented with these grant funds, and give members of its paid staff leave of absence. The ICDS and a parallel organization, the League of Egyptian Women Voters, were closed by the state security police at the time of the arrests and remain closed to board members and staff. It is uncertain whether, or when, they will be permitted to reopen and how severely longer-term operations could be curtailed. According to most knowledgeable observers, self-censorship in the human rights community has increased dramatically. However, some exceptionally courageous individuals continue to speak out on human rights issues, organize public meetings, and publish their views in the press.
No matter what the outcome of the trial of Dr. Ibrahim and his colleagues, the outlook for the development of a healthy civil society in Egypt appears to be growing dimmer. The accusations against Dr. Ibrahim and the closing of the Center are symptomatic of an increasingly less tolerant attitude towards those working to promote democracy and the growth of civil society. Indeed, by selecting for prosecution a person as highly esteemed as Dr. Ibrahim, the government appears to be sending a clear message to all those in Egypt who are working towards those ends, i.e. that there will be little tolerance of them and their activities.