Press Release

30 April, 1997

Criticism of new agricultural land law leads to arrest of Cairo University professor

The Center for Human Rights Legal Aid expresses its deep concern over the arrest of Dr. Ahmad al-Ahwany, professor of Nuclear Energy at Cairo University, last Thursday, April 24.

The Higher State Security prosecution office has ordered 15 days preventive detention for Dr. al-Ahwany, who is currently being held in Isteqbal Tora prison.

Al-Ahwany has been accused of preparing documents for distribution that would, if distributed, destabilize public order, or damage public interests.

It is worth noting that Dr. al-Ahwany's interrogations began in the presence of his lawyers on the night of his arrest, and continued on Sunday in the presence of two CHRLA lawyers in addition to the other lawyers. Al-Ahwany has denied all the charges against him, and claimed that he received the documents by post and that he doesn't know where they came from.

The actual documents were nothing but a bulletin criticizing the new law on agricultural land, a law that will allow landowners to evict tenants after a certain period of grace .

CHRLA asserts that regardless of the plea of Dr. al-Ahwany, he has in any case been charged with something that constitutes normal practice of the right to access information and hold opinions, in accordance with Article 19 of the ICCPR, and Article 49 of the Egyptian Constitution, which states: "The State shall guarantee for citizens the freedom of scientific research and literary, artistic and cultural creativity and provide the necessary means for encouraging their realization."

The prosecution has based its case on Article 102 bis of the Penal Code, which criminalizes the possession of documents that include sentences/phrases that might lead to a disturbance of public order, or damage public interests. This article CHRLA has repeatedly asked to be repealed, along with dozens of other restrictive articles that violate the Egyptian constitution and the ICCPR.

Finally, CHRLA calls on the Egyptian government to release Dr. al-Ahwany immediately and unconditionally - he is only guilty of practicing his legitimate rights. CHRLA also repeats its call on the government to review and amend all laws and articles restricting the right to freedom of expression.

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