Jun 30 2003

Ibn Khaldoun center reopened in Cairo

Published by at 12:00 am under Articles

Cairo- Three years after the arrest of human rights activists Saaed Eddine Ibrahim and the shut down of his center, the Ibn Khaldoun Center for Development reopened its doors Monday in a festive event.

Local Egyptian supporters and human rights activists as well as Arab and foreign experts and dignitaries crowded the center located in a crowded Cairo suburb of Muqatam. The center and its founder have become a symbol for Egyptian and Arab civil society movement.

“I hold no ill feeling towards anyone,” Ibrahim, aided by a cane, said as he announced the reopening of the center by chairing the first of three panel discussions on the role of civil society in enhancing peace. The second panel tackled the recently announced UN report on human development while the afternoon session dealt with the role of civil society in fostering democracy in the Arab world. In addition to Egyptian speakers, the panelists included speakers from Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, the European Union and the US.

In the evening a reception was held at the center in which opposition leaders, Egyptian newspaper editors and ambassadors from the US, the European Union, Japan, Canada and Greece were among the attendees. A statement of support from the UN Secretary General was delivered by a local UN official.

Barabara Ibrahim expressed her gratitude for those in attendance. ‘Shortly after Saad’s arrest I came to his center and it was in shambles, files were on the floor and windows were broken. I never dreamed that we will be back in this center with this huge crowd of Egyptian, Arab and international supporters,” she said. Ibrahim said that she and her husband would like to turn over the running of the Ibn Khaldoun Center to the new generation of young Egyptians who have shown tremendous belief in issues of human rights and the need to build a strong civil society in Egypt.

Saadedin Ibrahim and his staff were arrested by Egyptian authorities on charges of accepting foreign funding without getting prior permission from the government. After much litigation the Egyptian Court of Cessation cleared Saadedin and his staff of any wrong doing in a precedent-setting ruling. The ruling described the relationship between the Ibn Khaldoun center and the foreign funders as a commercial contract in which the center and its director were expected to carry out a set of activities in return for financial remuneration. The case had resulted in a wide spread fears among Egyptian human rights activists. The US government adopted the case of the dual US-Egyptian activists threatening to cut off US financial aid to Egypt if Saad was not released. Local jurists, however, insist that his release was purely a result of the decision of an independent Egyptian higher court which found no reason for the arrest of the human rights activists and the closure of his center.

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