Egypt jails three British Muslims



By Mark Huband, Security Correspondent, in London

Financial Times, 26 March 2004

Three British Muslims were sentenced to five years in prison by a Cairo court yesterday after being found guilty of spreading propaganda for a banned Egyptian Islamist group.

The three were among a group of 26 people sentenced to jail terms ranging from one to five years on charges of being linked to Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami, a banned Islamist party. Those sentenced were arrested in 2002.

The three Britons – Reza Pankhurst, Maajid Nawaz and Ian Nisbett – had all denied promoting the group. The Egyptian authorities had accused them of distributing written material and said that other documentation regarding the banned group had been found on a computer.

A British embassy official said the Britons were all charged with promoting the goals of Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami. “There were three charges against Reza Pankhurst: promoting the goals of an illegal group, possessing and distributing printed material for the group and possessing a computer used to spread propaganda for the group. Maajid Nawaz was charged with the first two charges only and Ian Nisbett was charged with only the first charge.”

Twenty-two Egyptians were sentenced to prison terms ranging from one to five years and one Palestinian was sentenced to five years. Verdicts by the high state security court must be approved by President Hosni Mubarak, who can approve the sentence, reduce it or order a retrial.

The possibility of an appeal would depend on the written explanation of the verdict, the embassy official said.

Only relatives of the British defendants were allowed in the Cairo courtroom.

Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami said torture had been used to force confessions. Egypt says it investigates such claims and prosecutes perpetrators.

The Foreign Office in London said the claims were being pursued with Egypt.


© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2008.