Friday, May 26, 2006

Prisoners of Conscience

Thursday’s marking of referendum day 2005 unfolded as planned, with relatively less state violence directed at peaceful protestors, compared to the past month of brutal repression. Judges were able to stage their silent stand on the High Court steps after all, when court custodians relented and security forces backed off from occupying the building.

A solid month of solidarity demonstrations with judges has left hundreds of peaceful activists detained, in conditions that are a clear violation of international standards of pre-trial detention. Almost all of them have experienced mistreatment, and some of them such as Muhammad al-Sharqawi (right) have been subjected to torture and sexual abuse (read his testimony here).

The focus now is on releasing all detainees, regardless of their political beliefs. Naturally, Kifaya, the socialists, and the Ikhwan emphasise the plight of their own. But we should remember that all of them are paying an equally steep price. All of them are fighting for our citizenship rights. And all of them are worthy of maximum respect, admiration, and gratitude.

Their political beliefs are immaterial. Their immediate release is imperative.

*Photos from AP, Wa7damasrya, Manalaa.

Pictured top: Kamal Khalil (2005) and Essam al-Eryan (1995).