Press Release

August 31 1997

Continued violations of the rights to oppose the law on agricultural rents

CHRLA expresses its deep concern with regard to the continued violations of the rights of those who peacefully oppose Law no. 96/1992 on the regulation of agricultural rents, which from 1 October 1997 will allow landowners to evict tenants. Early in the morning of 30 August 1997, the authorities arrested Kamal Khalil, member of the left-wing opposition party, the Tagammu', and member of a national committee to oppose the negative consequences of this law for tenant farmers .

Kamal KhalilKamal Khalil was brought before the State Security Public Prosecutor yesterday and placed under preventive detention for questioning in connection with charges based on a memorandum by State Security Investigations (SSI). The SSI report states that the accused was involved in disseminating inflammatory propaganda in public, inciting people to demonstrate against the regime, organizing public activities in protest against the law, stopping public transport, holding a sit-in, promoting ideas which favor the domination of one social class over another through the use of force, opposing the political principles of the ruling regime and inciting hatred and contempt against it, opposing the principles of the Constitution, preventing the implementation of the law, and inciting opposition to the general authorities.

CHRLA notes that during Khalil's interrogation, attended by one of CHRLA's lawyers, the questions dealt with the detainee's ideas on a number of issues, including normalization with Israel, and not only on Law no. 96/1992. Khalil was also questioned about the nature of the national committee in solidarity with tenant farmers, its aims and activities, including the committee's participation in some public meetings organized by political parties to discuss the consequences of the law in question, all of which can be considered matters of the legitimate rights to hold opinions and to peaceful assembly. .

CHRLA also notes that the charges against Khalil are not only based on those articles of the Penal Code which restrict freedom of expression by criminalizing vaguely defined acts, such as, criticizing the government or its laws and inciting hatred and contempt. Khalil was also charged according to anti-terrorism measures, in a way that criminalizes his rights to peaceful opposition. In particular, Article 86 bis of the Penal Code grants the investigation authorities wide powers to detain those who criticize the law for a period of up to six months.

CHRLA declares its solidarity with all those detained due to their peaceful opposition to Law 96/1992 and renews its request that the authorities guarantee the release of these prisoners of conscience. Such an action would be in line with Egypt's international obligations as contained in the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights, ratified by the Egyptian government. CHRLA also renews its call for the need to prevent the use of preventive detention as a kind of punishment of the political opposition's freedom of expression.

CHRLA believes in the need to urgently review all legislation that criminalizes and punishes freedom of thought, and reiterates the opinion of the UN Human Rights Commission in this matter on the need to review all state legislation dealing with terrorism in order to avoid the use of ambiguous language in defining terrorist acts which may be interpreted in such a way as make such legislation applicable to wide sections of society and against freedom of opinion.

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