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NEWS & COMMENTARY 2008 SPEAKERS 2007 2006 2005

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

US assails Egypt's jailing of Sadat nephew

The United States strongly criticized the imprisonment in Egypt of slain president Anwar Sadat's nephew on charges of defaming the army by implicating it in his uncle's assassination.

Talat Sadat, an opposition member of parliament, was jailed for a year by a military tribunal on Tuesday over comments he made about his uncle's 1981 assassination.

"We are extremely concerned by the Egyptian government's conviction and sentencing to imprisonment of Mr Sadat by a military tribunal for expressing his opinions," the State Department said.

"The keystone of a democratic society is the right to free speech, including the right to criticize one's government, and that extends to its military," a department spokesman said.

The 52-year-old lawmaker from the small opposition Al-Ahrar party was accused of "spreading false rumours and insulting the armed forces" after he alleged that senior officers were involved in his uncle's assassination by Islamist soldiers during a military parade on October 6, 1981.

In several interviews marking the 25th anniversary of the killing, Sadat suggested that President Hosni Mubarak -- the then-vice president who has ruled Egypt ever since -- might also have been involved.

Egyptian rights groups protested the state's decision to try Sadat before a military court and portrayed the case as the latest in a string of actions by Mubarak's government to stifle the political opposition.

Egypt is one of Washington's closest allies in the Middle East and one of its biggest aid recipients, with assistance of nearly two billion dollars per year.

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