An Egyptian military court has sentenced Talaat al-Sadat, a member of parliament and nephew of the late president Anwar Sadat, to a year in prison. Mr. Sadat was charged with defaming the armed forces.
According to news reports, Mr. Sadat was stripped of parliamentary immunity the day after he appeared on a television program and said that the Egyptian military conspired to free Khaled el-Islambolli, one of his uncle's assassins. Mohammad Abdel Wahab one of Mr. Sadat's attorneys, said his client "was targeted because he is a popular opposition figure."
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says the U.S. is "concerned by the Egyptian government's conviction and sentencing of Mr. Sadat":
"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. Our concerns about issues pertaining to free speech and to the rule of law are well known certainly in Egypt as well as elsewhere around the world."
In December 2005, Egypt sentenced Ayman Nour, leader of the pro-democracy Ghad, or Party of Tomorrow, to five years in prison, supposedly for falsifying petitions that resulted in his party's legalization. Few believe that was the real reason Mr. Nour was jailed. He was an outspoken advocate of democracy who ran against president Hosni Mubarak in the September 2005 presidential election.
Mr. McCormack says the U.S. has discussed with Egyptian authorities the situation of those "who were detained in the process of expressing their right to free speech":
"The Egyptian government understands where we stand on these things, and we will continue to talk about them because it is important. But at the end of the day, it's the Egyptian government and the Egyptian people that are going to have to agree upon the changes and the political accommodations that govern their daily political life. We can speak out very firmly about cases like this one and others [including Talaat al-Sadat], and we will continue to do so."
President George W. Bush says, "We expect higher standards from our friends and partners in the Middle East." He says, "The great and proud nation of Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward democracy."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.