Blair concern over Egypt detentions

The British Prime Minister has expressed concern at the plight of three British nationals held in Egypt and accused of belonging to an outlawed Islamist group.

    Egypt says Islamists want to overthrow the government

    Tony Blair was responding to an opposition Conservative politician who asked him if he

    intended to involve himself personally in the

    matter.

    "This is a huge issue of sensitivity for the Egyptian

    authorities as well as our own," Blair said in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

    "I have instructed our ambassador in Cairo to call on the

    Egyptian foreign minister to raise our concerns about the case." 

    Liberation party

    He added:

    "I can assure you that we will keep track of this case very,

    very closely indeed, but I do ask you to understand also that,

    because of the history of these issues within Egypt itself, it is a

    sensitive matter for the Egyptian authorities too."

    "This is a huge issue of sensitivity for the Egyptian

    authorities as well as our own.

    I have instructed our ambassador in Cairo to call on the

    Egyptian foreign minister to raise our concerns about the case"

    Tony Blair,
    British prime minister

    The three British nationals - Majid Nawaz, 28, Reza Pankhurst,

    27, and Ian Malcolm Nisbett, 24 - and 22 Egyptians have been held

    since April 2002.

    They were detained on charges of having tried to revive the Islamic

    Liberation Party, also known as Hizb al-Tahrir.

    Verdicts in the trial were recently postponed until March - the

    latest in a series of delays in the case.

    Torture 

    Blair said he was aware that Foreign Office Minister Baroness

    Symons had met the families of the men involved last week to hear

    their concerns.

    At the first court hearing in Cairo last October, Pankhurst told

    reporters he and other defendants had been subjected to

    prolonged torture which prompted them to make

    confessions they later retracted. All the defendants pleaded not

    guilty.

    The three British accused said they were in Cairo to study

    Arabic.

    The Islamic Liberation Party seeks to restore

    one Islamic government for all Muslim states. It has no history of political violence.

    It has had a presence 

    in several Arab countries, including Egypt, where it was disbanded after

    an attempted coup in the 1970s

    .

    SOURCE: AFP


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