Egyptian lawmaker jailed for Gaza trip

Politician convicted of using tunnel to cross into Strip; German-Egyptian pro-Gaza activist freed in Cairo.

smuggling tunnel 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
smuggling tunnel 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
A military tribunal on Wednesday convicted an opposition lawmaker of illegally crossing into Gaza and sentenced him to two years in prison and a $1,000 fine, an Egyptian court official said. The secretary general of the banned Labor party, Magdi Hussein, was arrested January 31 after trying to re-enter Egypt from Gaza without a passport. The judicial official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, said Hussein was convicted of using an underground tunnel to cross into Gaza. Defense lawyer Mohammed Moneib said Hussein was deprived of his right to defend himself as no lawyers were permitted into the trial. Egypt's military tribunals are known for their swift verdicts. In related news, Egyptian police released Egyptian-German activist Philip Rizk in the early hours of Wednesday morning after detaining him five days for participating in a pro-Gaza march, his family said. Rizk, 26, was now resting back in his family home, his sister Jeanette told The Associated Press, adding that the family would not be speaking further to the press. "I can confirm now at this time that he is free," she said. Police also confirmed his release. Rizk, together with 15 other Egyptian and foreign activists, carried out a six mile march through the Egyptian countryside outside Cairo on Friday to raise awareness over the plight of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The march was stopped by police and Rizk was taken by State Security, Egypt's plainclothes national security service. State Security never stated why Rizk was held, but it comes at a time when five other Egyptians have been arrested for either visiting Gaza or speaking out about the situation there. Rizk also wrote a blog about the situation in Gaza, Tabula Gaza, in which he several times criticized the Egyptian government's refusal to open the Rafah crossing during the IDF's three week operation in the Strip to stop Hamas rocket fire. Cairo has been very sensitive to accusations that it contributed to suffering in Gaza by not opening the border to more aid shipments. Rizk, a graduate student at the American University in Cairo, spent two years in Gaza between 2005 and 2007 and produced a documentary about daily life in the Strip. The arrest prompted concern from the German Foreign Ministry which several times inquired about the case.