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Community development association member detained for speaking out against forced marriages

(ANHRI/IFEX) - On 28 January 2010, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said that they had managed, with effort, to obtain the release of Sabah Khalil Eid, a member of the community development association in Tamoh, a village in Giza. Sabah was detained at the Abu AlNomros police station for four days after revealing facts that could readily be classified as human trafficking. On the TV show "Wahed Min AlNas" (One of the People), Sabah strongly criticised the prevailing trend of marrying off female minors to rich old men from the Gulf and gave as an example the case of a child whose parents forced her into marriage at the age of thirteen.

Right after the airing of the show, some villagers filed a complaint against Sabah, accusing her of insult and libel. She was released and considered a witness after the prosecution realised the truth of what Sabah had revealed on air. However, the police chief, in a vengeful abuse of his authority, refused to let her go, thus defying the law and the prosecution's decision. ANHRI lawyers intervened and managed to drive the prosecution to pressure the police chief into releasing Sabah late on 27 January.

ANHRI lawyer Ahmed Omar said, "This is a crime of arbitrary detention, with no legal justification. As we ask the public prosecutor to investigate the crime of wedding females minors to wealthy Arabs, a trend run by a 'mafia' network in Egypt, we demand that the Ministry of the Interior conduct a fair and transparent investigation into the actions of the officer at the Abu Alnomros police station for the illegal detention of Mrs. Sabah Khalil. We request that the results of this investigation and the measures taken against this officer be announced to the public."

In revealing this multifaceted crime, constituting human trafficking by forcing female minors into marriage, as well as the practices of police officers against a woman who simply expressed her opinion and disclosed the ugly truth, ANHRI asserts that freedom of expression is neither a luxury nor an exclusive right of the privileged. Free expression is the right of every citizen, and all departments of the Egyptian government, especially the police, should respect this right and never suppress it for any reason.

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