His Excellency Muhammad Husni Mubarak
The Committee on Academic Freedom in the Middle East and North Africa of the Middle East Studies Association of North America notes with concern that a number of university professors have been arrested for political dissent and for exercising the right to freedom of association. They include Dr. Abdul Hamid al-Ghazali, Dr. Mahmoud al-Areeny, Dr. Essam Hashish, all of Cairo University, and Dr. Jamal Abdul Hadi, formerly of al-Azhar University. They are accused of founding an illegal political party, al-Wasat. This concerus us, since it follows another case last year when a number of other university professors were sentenced by military court for being active in professional organizations, social activities, and relief agencies. These professors are still in prison.
The Middle East Studies Association comprises 2400 academics worldwide who teach and conduct research on the Middle East and North Africa. The Association publishes the respected International Journal of Middle East Studies and is committed to ensuring respect for the principles of academic freedom and human rights throughout the region.
We are troubled to see fellow academics facing trials in a military court run by non-civilian judges. Such prosecutions stand in violation of article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; moreover, they violate the letter and spirit of article 9 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights. It is also hard to reconcile their arrest and trial with Egyptian law, since Law No. 40/1977 affirms the right of every Egyptian to establish and belong to a political party.
The practice of referring cases of academics and professionals exercising their right to freedom of association and freedom of opinion to a military court has created dangerous precedent for our Egyptian colleagues, and also violates principles of academic freedom. We respectfully call for the release of these university professors and for the referral of all cases involving civilians to civilian courts. We further urge that all prosecutions for reasons of political opinion and association cease.
Anne H. Betteridge
Justice Faruq Sayf al-Nasir, Minister of Justice
Fathi Surur, Speaker of the People's Assembly
'Atif Sidqi, Prime Minister
Raga' al-'Arabi, Dar al-Qada' al-'Ulya
The Egyptian Committee for the Defense of Freedom of Thought and Belief
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