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Egypt: One year on, torture and fair trial concerns in Britons' trial must be addressed

Their long-running trial, which re-started yesterday, is taking place in an (Emergency) Supreme State Security Court in Cairo, an exceptional court that violates international fair trial standards. These courts deny defendants the right to appeal against verdicts.

The Britons - Maajid Nawaz, Ian Malcolm Nisbett, Reza Pankhurst - are on trial with 23 Egyptians for offences related to membership of the Islamic Liberation Party (Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami). Members of the British men's families will be demonstrating their own concern outside the Egyptian Embassy in London on 1 April 2003, marking the passage of a year since their original detention.

Amnesty International, which last year published a report revealing systematic torture in Egypt, is calling for independent assessments of the men's torture claims. The men claim that after their arrest in Cairo last year, they - along with a fourth Briton, Hassan Rizfi (who was later released) and the 23 Egyptian detainees - were tortured or ill-treated at Cairo's State Security Intelligence (SSI) building.

Amnesty International has documented numerous cases amounting to a pattern of systematic torture and ill-treatment carried out by members of the SSI. Only last week Amnesty International received reports that anti-war activists opposing war in Iraq were subjected to electric-shock torture at the same SSI building.

Amnesty International UK said:

'Months after raising concerns that these men were allegedly tortured into making false confessions, we are no nearer knowing the truth of this matter.

'With the case having now dragged on for a whole year, the Egyptian authorities need to act quickly to properly investigate claims of torture whilst guaranteeing that the trial is conducted efficiently and fairly.

'Having already spent an entire year in custody, our fear is that these men may receive long prison sentences after unfair trials.' Background

The three British men have written direct appeals from their prison cells to Prime Minister Tony Blair alleging that torture was used to force 'confessions' from them, and they have urged Mr Blair to intervene on their behalf.

The case was reportedly raised with the Egyptian authorities by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw during a visit to the country last year. In Egypt membership of the Islamic Liberation Party (Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami), which is lawful in the UK is banned in Egypt. The four British men were originally held under emergency legislation for 12 weeks.

In April and May 2002 scores of Egyptians were also detained for their alleged affiliation with the Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami. Many of these were held for weeks in incommunicado detention at premises of the SSI. Amnesty International has received information that several of them were subjected to electric shocks and other forms of torture and ill-treatment.

Related information:

Egypt: With British men's trial ongoing, Egyptian Government urged to act following UN experts' torture review press release, 22 November 2002:…

Egypt: No protection - systematic torture continues report, 13 November 2002:…\EGYPT /p>

Egypt: No access to prisons for Amnesty International delegates press release, 8 October 2002:…\EGYPT /p>

Egypt: Torture allegations concerning four Britons must be investigated press release, 3 July 2002: /cgi-bin/eatsoup.cgi?id=PSQRJtRDxIcAAEHK7Yo&a= /p>

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