Bahai News -- Amnesty International - Ongoing Violations of the Right to Freedom of Belief
Ongoing Violations of the Right to Freedom of Belief
AI Index: MDE 12/009/2002
Publish date: 04/03/2002
Egypt's (Emergency) State Security Court for Misdemeanors will pronounce its verdict on 5 March 2002 in the case against Amin Yussif and seven
others in yet another example of people being at risk of imprisonment solely for exercising their right to freedom of belief, Amnesty
International said today.
Amin Yussif, a 51-year-old civil servant, his wife Amal Mahmud and six others have been held in detention since the end of September 2001 under
charges of "exploiting religion Y for extremist ideas" which carry up to five years' imprisonment. The group is accused of having held private
religious gatherings and advocating modifications to basic Islamic rules, including rules for prayers and pilgrimage.
The group is being tried by an exceptional court - - The (Emergency) State Security Court for Misdemeanors - - in clear violation of
fundamental principles of international fair trial standards. Established under emergency legislation, the court denies the accused the right
to have a full appeal before a higher tribunal.
"This case is far from being the only one. An increasing number of people are being detained and tried in Egypt simply because they exercised
their right to freedom of religion and belief as guaranteed under international human rights standards," Amnesty International said.
Others sentenced to prison terms under similar charges by the (Emergency) State Security Court for Misdemeanors include mother of five, Manal
Wahid Mana'i, and writer Salah al-Din Muhsin. Manal Wahid Mana'i was sentenced in September 2000 to five years' imprisonment on the basis of
accusations of being the leader of a religious group which allegedly attributes divine status to a late Sufi Sheikh.
In January 2001 Salah al-Din Muhsin, 44, was sentenced to three years' imprisonment, accused of "offending religion" in his publications. His
original trial had resulted in July 2000 in a six month suspended sentence, but the case returned to court after the authorities refused to
endorse the verdict, deeming the sentence too lenient.
Amnesty International considers people detained or imprisonment for merely exercising their right to freedom of religion to be prisoners of
conscience and calls for their immediate and unconditional release.
"The Egyptian authorities should review or abolish legislation that, in violation of international standards, stipulates prison sentences for
acts which constitute nothing more than the exercise of the rights of freedom of thought, conscience and religion."
The majority of people tried in connection with offences against religion are charged under Article 98 (f) of the penal code which stipulates
up to five years' imprisonment for "exploiting religion (Y) for extremist ideas with the aim of provoking a conflict or of showing scorn or
contempt for one of the divinely revealed religions (Y) or harming national unity or social peace".
At the end of 2001, more than 50 prisoners of conscience were imprisoned in Egypt, including at least 10 people sentenced on the basis of
Article 98 (f) who had merely exercised their right to freedom of religion and belief.
Between January and April 2001 more than a dozen alleged members of the Baha'i faith, most from the Sohag Governorate were arrested and
detained for several months. In February 2001 the UN Special Rapporteur on religious intolerance noted that "Baha'is are not allowed to meet in
groups, especially for religious observances, and their literature is destroyed".
The rights to freedom of expression and religion are provided in international and regional treaties, including the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, to which Egypt is a state party.
Source: Amnesty International, International Secretariat, 1 Easton Street, WC1X 8DJ, London, United Kingdom
Contact your nearest Amnesty International office for more information
©Copyright 2002, Amnesty International
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