May 31, 2001
His Excellency Muhammad Hosni Mubarak
President of the Arab Republic of Egypt
We, the presidents of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine, have learned with sadness and dismay of the harsh prison sentences handed down last week in Egypt to Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim and 27 members of his staff, including two women, at the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies.
As you are no doubt aware, Dr. Ibrahim, who is 62 years old and holds both United States and Egyptian citizenship, is a respected professor of sociology at the American University of Cairo. He is widely known as a man of integrity and stature who has worked to promote democratization and human rights in Egypt. In fact, with regard to the charge of embezzlement, the European Union has said that no misuse of their funds granted to the Ibn Khaldun Center has been found. In September 2000 the chair of our human rights committee met with Egyptian Ambassador Nabil Fahmy to convey our concerns, and the committee sent a delegation to Egypt to discuss Dr. Ibrahim's case, express our concerns, and observe the February 2001 session of his trial. The report that was subsequently prepared on this 12-day mission is enclosed. It was not made public until now because we expected that, if Dr. Ibrahim and his colleagues received a fair trial, they would be exonerated.
Unfortunately, Dr. Ibrahim's trial cannot be considered to have met international fair trial standards. In fact, it is our understanding that his sentence, which we view as unfounded, was handed down by the Supreme State Security Court before lawyers for the defense had finished submitting their briefs and only an hour and half after their summations had been completed. This, despite that thousands of pages of evidence had been submitted to the court for consideration in its deliberations.
We understand that Dr. Ibrahim is being held in Tora Mazraa Prison in south Cairo. We are seriously concerned about his health. According to Dr. Ibrahim's family, he is suffering from a deteriorating nervous system disorder, as yet undiagnosed, which is affecting his balance, walking, and use of his left hand, with progressive numbness in his right (writing) hand. We were pleased to learn that he has been given his medications, that he is being monitored by prison doctors, and that his family and neurosurgeon are permitted to visit him.
We hereby respectfully urge your Excellency to show humanity and exercise your constitutional powers to intercede in this case and to immediately and unconditionally release Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim. Of course, we hope that the others who were convicted with Dr. Ibrahim will be released as well. Such a magnanimous gesture would be most welcomed by our members and the international scientific community.
Bruce Alberts, President
National Academy of Sciences
William A. Wulf, President
National Academy of Engineering
Kenneth I. Shine, President
Institute of Medicine