Wednesday, July 23, 2008

H. Res. 1303: Calling on the Egyptian Government to respect human rights and freedoms of religion and expression in Egypt

Please keep in mind the following:
"This bill is in the first step in the legislative process. Introduced bills go first to committees that deliberate, investigate, and revise them before they go to general debate. The majority of bills never make it out of committee. Keep in mind that sometimes the text of one bill is incorporated into another bill, and in those cases the original bill, as it would appear here, would seem to be abandoned. [Last Updated: Jul 5, 2008]"

On June 24, 2008, Representative Frank Wolf, Republican, Virginia, introduced the following resolution.

HRES 1303 IH
2d Session
H. RES. 1303
Calling on the Egyptian Government to respect human rights and freedoms of religion and expression in Egypt.
June 24, 2008
Mr. WOLF (for himself, Mr. BURTON of Indiana, Mr. SMITH of New Jersey, Mr. FRANKS of Arizona, Mr. FOSSELLA, Mr. KIRK, Mr. MCCOTTER, Ms. SCHAKOWSKY, Mr. SOUDER, Mr. DAVIS of Illinois, Mr. PITTS, Ms. WATERS, Mr. PENCE, Mr. MCGOVERN, and Mr. GOODE) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs


Calling on the Egyptian Government to respect human rights and freedoms of religion and expression in Egypt.
Whereas the promotion of respect for democracy, human rights, and civil liberties are fundamental principles and aims of the United States;
Whereas the United States attaches great importance to relations with Egypt and considers fair and transparent elections as the only way to make progress towards a more democratic society;
Whereas Egypt plays a significant role in the Middle East peace process and in the fight against international terrorism and fundamentalism;
Whereas the Egyptian authorities have promised to put an end to the imprisonment of journalists and bloggers, but this promise has so far gone unfulfilled;
Whereas Shiites, Koranists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other religious minorities are harassed, arrested, and imprisoned by security services;
Whereas all Baha’i institutions and community activities have been banned in Egypt since 1960, and members of the Baha’i faith are denied government required identification cards solely due to their religious affiliation;
Whereas material vilifying Jews appears regularly in the state controlled and semi official media;
Whereas the Copts, Egypt’s largest religious minority group and the largest Christian population in the Middle East, suffer from many forms of discrimination, including--
(1) a lack of employment in higher positions of the public sector, universities, army, and the security service;
(2) disproportional representation in Parliament and Shura Council;
(3) difficulty in building and repairing churches;
(4) lack of protection and lack of prosecution of perpetrators in cases of sectarian violence;
(5) government harassment of converts to Christianity while the government encourages conversion to Islam; and
(6) the inability to obtain government issued identification cards which reflect conversion to Christianity;
Whereas the opposition presidential candidate Ayman Nour is still serving a five-year prison sentence following an unfair trial in 2005 on politically motivated charges;
Whereas his health is deteriorating as a consequence of this imprisonment;
Whereas his numerous appeals for release on the grounds of his medical conditions and his request for a presidential pardon in March of 2008 have all been rejected;
Whereas Egyptian authorities closed the Centre for Trade Union and Workers’ Services and its branches, this being the first closure of a nongovernmental advocacy organization by an executive decision;
Whereas the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies and its founder, Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, have been threatened for their work to promote democratic reforms;
Whereas other civil society development organizations, including the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, have also been restricted in their work; and
Whereas the recent arrests and action against nongovernmental organizations and human rights defenders undermines the commitments entered into by the Egyptian Government concerning fundamental rights and freedoms and the democratic process in the country: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives--
(1) recognizes that respect for human rights is a fundamental value, and the bilateral relationship between the United States and Egypt should be a platform for promoting the rule of law and fundamental freedoms;
(2) calls on the Egyptian Government to end all forms of harassment, including judicial measures, the detention of media professionals and, more generally, human rights defenders and activists calling for reforms and to fully respect freedom of expression, in conformity with article 19 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
(3) encourages the Egyptian Government to honor its commitment to repeal the state of emergency in order to allow for the full consolidation of the rule of law in Egypt;
(4) encourages the Egyptian Government to take the steps necessary to fully implement and protect the rights of religious minorities as full citizens;
(5) strongly supports measures to guarantee academic freedom, freedom of the media, and freedom of religion or belief in Egypt, including by ending arbitrary administrative measures, such as those taken against the Centre for Trade Union and Workers’ Services and the Association for Human Rights Legal Aid;
(6) urges the Egyptian Government not to impose arbitrary restrictions on the peaceful activities of civil society organizations;
(7) calls on the Egyptian Government for--
(A) the immediate release of Ayman Nour, in light of reports of his deteriorating state of health, and calls for an immediate welfare visit, including a visit by qualified medical personnel;
(B) the release of all political prisoners and other activists; and
(C) an end to the harassment of the Koranists;
(8) stresses the need to fully implement the principles of the 1969 Organization of African Unity Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa and the 1993 International Convention concerning the rights and the protection of migrant workers and their families;
(9) supports the concluding observations of the United Nations Committee on Migrant Workers of May 2007, which called for the re-opening of the investigations into the killing of 27 Sudanese asylum-seekers in December 2005;
(10) calls for an end to all forms of torture and ill treatment and calls for investigations when there is reasonable suspicion that acts of torture have occurred;
(11) calls on the Egyptian Government to allow--
(A) a visit by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; and
(B) a visit by the the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief;
(12) emphasizes the importance of ensuring and strengthening the independence of the judiciary by amending or repealing all legal provisions that infringe or do not sufficiently guarantee its independence;
(13) stresses the need for respect and protection of the freedoms of thought, conscience, and religion as ensured in article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination based on Religion and Belief;
(14) welcomes the efforts made by Egypt to secure the border with Gaza and encourages all parties concerned to redouble efforts to fight smuggling through tunnels into the Gaza strip; and
(15) urges the President and the Secretary of State to put human rights and religious freedom developments in Egypt very high on the United States Government’s agenda during meetings with Egyptian officials.

Dear Friends,
Nour was not released yesterday,on the occasion of the 23rd of July revolution, among 1578 prisoners who were pardoned, and who included those convicted of crimes such as murder and torture.
11 of his supporters, who tried to visit him in prison on the "open day visit" yesterday morning were detained by the security, kept in the heat inside closed trucks and thrown in the desert end of the day.
Others who gathered at the Prosecutor's office calling for his and his supporters' release were beaten up and forced to leave.
Although all prisoners recieve, according to prison's laws and regulations, at least 4 visitors, I was the only visitor allowed at 1 pm tuesday. He declared a hunger strike condeming what happened to members of his party and supporters and gave me a copy from a one-page letter to President Mubarak, which he sent through the authorities earlier, and the following Press Release. He extends his gratitude to every person who has expressed rejection to what he is suffering and called for his freedom and asked me to personally thank everyone who had the courage to talk loud and write couragesouly against the brutal procedures and the continuous retaliation process against him.
May God protect you and your family from oppression and injustice, Regards, Gameela

In a statement from prison, Tuesday 22nd of July: Ayman Nour: "I am now detained by virtue of a Presidential Decree!!"

Presidential Decree pardoning prisoners who have served half their sentence on 23 July benefits convicts of 60 crimes that include espionage, murder, torture, insulting religion, raising prices, monopoly, false testimony. Ayman Nour is excepted from the pardon.

The Interior Ministry, the Prisons' Department and the administrations of 40 prisons were notified yesterday of the presidential decree pardoning the prisoners how have served half their sentences on 23rd July 2008. Article 3 of the Presidential Decree stated that the pardon does not apply to those deemed to be dangerous to public security and those –as is the case with Dr. Ayman Nour, leader of the Al-Ghad party and the number 2 presidential candidate in Egypt's first and last presidential election- charged with forgery. Nour was sentenced to five years on charges of forging some of the powers of attorney used to establish the Al-Ghad party in 2003 days following the mentioned election. The Political Parties Law requires the submission of 50 powers of attorney, at least half of which are workers and farmers, from those applying to establish political parties.

Nour issued a statement from his prison describing the Presidential Decree as a clear decision of detention against Nour from the source of the Decree, the President. He pointed out that it no longer makes sense to talk about the President not interfering with the Judiciary. When he issued the Decree, the President knew that serving sentences is subject to pardon after half the term of the sentence, a custom in Egypt since such decisions were issued by the Ottoman ruler on each religious feast.

Nour affirmed that the crimes excluded from the pardon are always those related to drug trafficking and espionage. The latter was eliminated from the list of excluded crimes in order to release spy Azzam Azzam.

In his statement Nour pointed out that the majority of pardon decrees during the rule of President Mubarak did not previously state that forgery is excluded from the pardon as is the case this year. These are Presidential Decrees 265 of 1997 published in issue 32 of the official gazette on 7/8/1997; 303 of 1998 published in issue 38 of the official gazette on 17/9/1998; 305 of 1999 published in issue 39 of the official gazette on 30/9/1999; 333 of 2000 published in issue 32 of the official gazette on 10/8/200 and other decrees which did not exclude forgery from the pardoned crimes!!

The statement denied any justification of this exclusion related to public interest or the seriousness of the crime as the pardon includes more serious crimes, such as murder, espionage, corruption, gambling, usury, and insulting religion, as well as endangering places of worship, raising prices, monopolies and false testimonies!!

Turrah prison, south of Cairo, Ayman Nour

Saturday, July 19, 2008

July 19, 2008

Call for Dr. Ayman Nour's Freedom

Friends of Democracy,

I attach here a copy from the letter that Nour just forwarded to the Congress members regarding his current situation, and I want to update you all that Nour has served half of the sentence in April and should have been freed by then with a presidential decree. However, the authorities promised that this will happen on the July 23rd celebrations, when most prisoners who have served half of the sentence are freed by a general presidential pardon. Nour fortunately survived a heart attack last Tuesday and was moved to a hospital outside of the prison for several hours. Will the President release him next Wednesday with thousand of other prisoners, including those accused of murder and espionage, or will they continue this process of retaliation. Please read his letter and call for his release next Wednesday. Thanks, Gameela Ismail

Congressman Frank Wolf
Members of the Congress External Affairs Committee
Members of the American Congress

Please accept my greetings, respect and gratitude

I have read with extreme gratitude what was written about my case in the draft bill 1303.

In my name and on behalf of my family, party and supporters I express our sincere gratitude for this interest in my case and condition.

However, I would like to draw your attention to new facts and developments, hoping they will be taken into consideration in the final version.

I: Case summary:
The writer of this letter is the leader of the liberal Ghad Party of Egypt, parliament member from 1995 till 2005, has run for the –first and last- Egyptian presidential election where he came in second to the president from among 10 candidates leaders of Egyptian parties in September 2005. The writer has been detained since 5 December, 2005 on the obviously false grounds of forging some of the powers of attorney applying to establish the Ghad party. The Egyptian law only requires 50 such powers of attorney which negates the need to forge such documents. The documents, which have been submitted to the authorities since 2003, were legal. I was put on a trial that lacked the minimum standards of justice or neutrality and the five-year prison sentence was issued in one degree amid unprecedented local, regional and international anger. The Congress took a great stance since my detention prior to the unfair sentence and through to draft bill 1303 which includes the call to settle my legal position and release me.

From the start the case included Constitutional breaches related to the ungrounded measures taken against me prior to withdrawing my parliament immunity, an issue the parliament authority here refused to testify to or provide official papers of. I recently obtained a final court order obliging the parliament to give me access to the official documents allowing me to request a retrial according to the Egyptian law.

State Council Court issued a ruling in my favor on 19 February 2008 concerning lawsuits 14505 of 61[1] and 35185 of 61. This has led me to take the steps to request a retrial from Egypt's prosecutor general on 3 May 2008. I have not received a reply from the prosecutor general to date.

I have previously submitted a request on 1 September 2007 when one of those who were used to make the false case against me, prisoner Ayman Ismail al-Refai, changed his testimony. However, when I asked to hear his new testimony on 1 September 2007 he was found hung on the morning of Thursday 7 September 2007 before giving his testimony.

II: The other change is that I have now served more than half my prison sentence. It has been customary for over a quarter of a century to issue a pardon that includes all crimes for the remaining period of the sentence on the anniversary of the revolution on the 23rd of July. This practice includes even murderers, espionage convicts, etc.).

However, it is still doubtful that this customary practice will include me as the general pardon which includes all the prisoners who have served half their sentence some involves exceptions related to the seriousness of the crime, such as drug and arms trafficking (!!). Although it is not logical to apply the exception to the crime of forgery I was accused of, it is possible that this crime will be especially introduced to the presidential decree to be issued before 23rd July with the aim of depriving me even from such a customary measure as I have been deprived throughout the years of imprisonment from the right to medical treatment, medication, and writing, all of which are rights enjoyed by all political and criminal prisoners other than myself!!

III: The authorities took illegal measures by pushing some of those who were dismissed from the Ghad party to file a lawsuit to obtain a court ruling -not a final one- officially acknowledging them as the party's pro-government leaders. These persons were officially given funds based on the false ruling that was not issued against us. Moreover, the authorities demanded an appeal of the ruling from a higher court.

When we intervened in the lawsuit the appeal was withdrawn, an unprecedented situation in the history of political parties, which resulted in nationalizing the party. This was done with the aim of depriving us of the legitimacy of political and party presence. Tens of the party's young members were also detained due to the 6th April 2008 strike.

Thus, and in the light of all of the above developments I hope that your suggested draft bill includes the settling of my legal situation after I served half the sentence based on the following:

1. Allow me to enjoy my legal right to a retrial under the principles of fair trials based on the State Council final ruling to give me access to the documents withdrawing my immunity in accordance with the ruling related to cases 14505 and 35185 issued on 19 February 2008 in order to settle my legal situation and return my full political rights.

2. Include me in the general pardon related to serving half the sentence -the pardons issued by the president for all prisoner on 23rd July and 6th October of every year- and allowing me to regain legal standing or giving me the right to a retrial.

3. As for the liberal Al-Ghad party, put an end to official and security interference and lift any restrictions on the party's activities, as well as allowing the party newspaper to be published again and canceling any rulings not issued facing the party or related to a dispute the Party is party to.

Finally, I reiterate my gratitude for your sincere efforts.

Please accept my greetings and full appreciation

Yours sincerely,
Dr. Ayman Nour
Leader of the Al-Ghad liberal party
South Cairo on 6 July 2008