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Egyptian journalists hospitalized

In a late night raid on March 12, 20 armed men entered Sahari's house, rifled through his belongings and detained him. Though no reason was given for his detention, Sahari has often been outspoken at anti-war rallies.
Egyptian journalists hospitalized
By Lucy Ashton, Middle East Times, Egypt, 25 APRIL 2003

PARTS OF THIS STORY WERE CENSORED FROM THIS WEEK'S PRINTED EDITION

Ayman Makram lay coddled in a blanket, wincing as he shifted his weight and occasionally sipping water during a press conference at the trade union Journalist's Syndicate in central Cairo.

Makram, a journalist for the economic daily Al Alam Al Youm, has joined hands with fellow reporter Hisham Fouad of Al Arabi. Both of them are refusing to eat until their colleague Ibrahim Al Sahari, who has been confined without charge for the second time in two months, is freed. On Thursday, the two journalists were admitted to hospital.

In a late night raid on March 12, 20 armed men entered Sahari's house, rifled through his belongings and detained him. Though no reason was given for his detention, Sahari has often been outspoken at anti-war rallies.

The state, his friends in the Syndicate said, "is persecuting anyone who can the Egyptian Street, especially the socialists". Sahari's location is not certain and he has yet to be charged with any crime, but the Journalist Syndicate believes he is being held at Torah prison.

Under Emergency Law, the Interior Ministry can hold people for a month without charge, but then they can renew that right indefinitely - hence Sahari's imprisonment for six weeks. Some 800 people have been taken like this and held without charge since March. To add to Sahari's file of misdemeanors, he has recently released a new book entitled Iraq: Another War for Hegemony and Oil, published just as the US invaded Iraq.

"In the final chapter, Sahari describes the Arab states as weak and accuses them and specifically the Egyptian regime of acquiescing to Washington's war," said a glassy-eyed Fouad.

"He wrote that to liberate Jerusalem and Baghdad, first we must liberate Egypt."

Hala Dahrough, the missing journalist's wife, is trying to do just that. Not only is she campaigning to free her husband, she is also working with professors, writers, human rights activists and lawyers from the Committee for the Defence of Democracy to rid Egypt of the Emergency Law.

Emergency Law was established in 1981, and it was renewed for another three years in a quick and undebated parliamentary vote in February this year.

At the time, Prime Minister Atef Ebeid promised that the law would not curtail Egyptians' freedom of expression but would rather "ensure the security of citizens".

Instead, the state of emergency is supposed to only apply to drug dealers and 'terrorists'.

In an open letter entitled 'Down with the Police State', Dahrough writes of her anger at this law that has deprived her daughter of a father, and made "her look for him all over the house" repeating "her first complete sentence: I want my father".

Ibrahim Nafie, head of the Journalist Syndicate, said on Monday that he was working to free Sahari within the next 36 hours. He was still in detention on Thursday.

Meanwhile the hunger strikers have been put under medical observation. Doctors said the health of Makram and Fouad is deteriorating as their sugar levels and blood pressure fall. Both journalists are determined to continue their strike until Sahari is returned to his wife and daughter but there is still talk of them passing on the strike to two fellow female journalists.

"If he is not released, we hope to be a core of resistance that others will join," Fouad said, standing up shakily to greet another well-wisher.

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