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Egypt: Trial of Britons and Egyptians - unfair trial and torture concerns raised

The human rights organisation, which recently published a report revealing systematic torture in Egypt, voiced its concern that the men may have been tortured during interrogation, noting that torture and ill-treatment allegations from the men have yet to be independently investigated.

The trial of the three British men - Maajid Nawaz, Ian Malcolm Nisbett, Reza Pankhurst - is set to reconvene 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 three British men have written direct appeals from their prison cells to Prime Minister Tony Blair. They allege that torture was used to force 'confessions' from them and they urge Mr Blair to intervene on their behalf.

The men, whose case was reportedly raised with the Egyptian authorities by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw during a visit to the country earlier this year, are charged with offences related to membership of the Islamic Liberation Party (Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami), which is lawful in the UK but banned in Egypt.

Amnesty International UK Communications Director Richard Bunting said:

"For the past six months this case has concerned us deeply. Allegations from the men that they were tortured are yet to be independently investigated. Added to this is the fact that they are being tried in an exceptional court with a long track record of unfair trials.

"Egyptian prisons are already bursting at the seams with literally thousands of prisoners held without charge or trial, or following unfair trials. Our fear is that these men may receive long prison sentences after an unfair trial."

Of particular concern to Amnesty International are reports that the British men were tortured and ill-treated shortly after their arrest in Cairo on 1 April 2002. Along with a fourth Briton - Hassan Rizfi - who was later released, the British men allege that they were tortured at Cairoís State Security Intelligence (SSI) building, where past cases of systematic torture have been documented.

The four British men were originally held under emergency legislation for 12 weeks. They have now been in pre-trial detention for nearly nine months.

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 building. 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: No access to prisons for Amnesty International delegates (press release, 8 October 2002)

Egypt: Torture allegations concerning four Britons must be investigated (press release, 3 July 2002)

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