Faculty will protest colleague’s imprisonment

By Riham El Houshi 

A sit-in will be held Monday 27 October in front of the HUSS building to protest the imprisonment without trial of Ihab Atta, a teacher on fellowship in the Arabic Language Institute of The American University in Cairo.

“There is no charge against him,” said Saeed El-Wakeel, Atta’s colleague at ALI and one of the protest’s organizers. “We want him either to be tried or released.”

Atta disappeared in spring 2007 after attending a party thrown by someone who had attempted to join a jihadi movement in Iraq and had been under National Security surveillance. His colleagues allege he was taken as guilty by association, but since there is no charge any lawyer hired can do nothing more than send petitions to National Security.

“I heard a knock on the door at 2 in the morning,” said Kamilia Farag, recalling the night of her son’s arrest 20 months ago. “It was National Security, and they told me they had taken my son in for questioning but that it would only last an hour.”

Farag kept her son’s arrest a secret until last May, hoping he would be released and be able to take back his fellowship at AUC. “After all my lawyers and my connections failed I decided to send an email to AUC’s President asking him to step in.”

The President’s office did attempt to contact the ministry of Interior but to no avail. According to Raghda El Essawy, Director of ALI, if Monday’s sit-in, to which a host of newspapers have been invited to attend, fails to trigger action, a petition will be sent to Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak.

“Ihab is talented, I was extremely reluctant to give away his fellowship,” she said. “He has a promising future, and we will do what we can to get him out.”

Emergency law in place in Egypt since the assassination of President Anwar El-Sadat in 1982 means that a person can be arrested and held without charge.

Additional reporting by Asmaa El Gammal and Janan El Maamoun

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