Amnesty: Israeli held in Egypt for 12 years with no trial

Dual Egyptian-Israeli citizen never appeared before a judge, assigned an attorney during Mubarak's rule, says report.

Egypt clashes 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Egypt clashes 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The human rights group Amnesty International has decried the 12-year incarceration of an Israeli citizen in Egypt in a report published Wednesday that outlines crimes committed by former President Hosni Mubarak’s security forces.
In the report “Time for Justice: Egypt’s Corrosive System of Detention,” Amnesty called for the immediate establishment of an independent inquiry into human rights abuses committed by the country’s much-feared State Security Investigations Service.
According to the report, Ouda Suleiman Tarabin, a dual national of Egypt and Israel, continues to be detained in the Liman Tora Prison, allegedly on the basis that he had been tried by a military court and sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment for espionage in 1999.
“Tarabin was arrested two days after he entered Egypt illegally. He said he was insulted when he showed an Israeli passport. He told the lawyer who represents him now that he was never brought before a judge or assigned a lawyer before,” stated the report.
“The authorities have so far failed to provide a copy of the verdict of the military court despite repeated requests by the lawyer to the Minister of Interior, Minister of Justice and the prison authorities, and it remains unclear whether he is indeed serving a prison sentence or is in fact held in administrative detention,” the report added.
Amnesty International wrote to the minister of interior to inquire about Tarabin’s legal status, but received no answer.
It claims in its report that “administrative detention was clearly used to circumvent all sorts of judicial rulings, including those issued by courts established by the Emergency Law. The authorities appeared intent on holding people they consider a ‘threat.’ While arresting and detaining them, they have also deprived them of their most fundamental rights.”
Tarabin’s case is one of dozens of examples cited in the report, which argues that Egypt’s repressive security force must be held to account for its use of emergency powers under Mubarak.
“Under the cover of the state of emergency, President Mubarak’s state security forces were for years allowed to commit gross violations without fear of scrutiny or punishment,” said Amnesty International.
“SSI officers used administrative detention to hold people who were critical of the Egyptian authorities, human rights activists and criminal suspects for as long as they wanted and without intent to prosecute them in a criminal trial.”
Amnesty International called for victims of human rights violations to receive reparations, including financial compensation and guarantees that there will be fundamental reform.
“The authorities cannot expect to simply sweep the past under the carpet without addressing the needs of the victims of years of ruthless repression,” the group said. “It demands immediate concrete steps from the authorities so that those responsible for serious human rights violations are held to account. Egyptians must see justice done for the human rights abuses of the past.”
Amnesty also called for Egypt’s 30-year state of emergency to be ended immediately, and said that all provisions of the Emergency Law must be repealed.
The Egyptian authorities have never disclosed how many people were held in administrative detention.
National and international human rights organizations estimated the number in the last years of Mubarak's rule to be between 6,000 and 10,000.
Jerusalem source in Jerusalem said that for the past decade, Israel has been attempting to gain information regarding Tarabin and work for his release. According to the source, attempts have been made on all levels, including during visits by heads of state, to glean information about the case, but to no avail.
The source said that everyone from presidents to prime ministers and foreign ministers have tried to assist Tarabin, but received no response from Egyptian authorities.
“During the past two years we have been trying to get him released or pardoned as he has completed more than twothirds of his sentence, but without success. Since the Egyptian uprising we have been seeing the release of political prisoners and are hopeful Tarabin will also be freed,” said the source, who also noted that Israel found out about Tarabin’s incarceration only four years after his arrest.
“No one told us about it. His family never complained, we were never approached by a lawyer, we had no idea,” the source said. “Egypt is currently undergoing great changes. They recently canceled the Emergency Laws. We hope this will impact Tarabin’s case, too.”
The source stressed that Tarabin was a citizen who had been judged under military law, a highly problematic fact running contrary to international law.