Cable sobre seis activistas detenidos que denuncian malos tratos de la policía

Date:2008-11-26 15:51:00
Source:Embassy Cairo
Dunno:08CAIRO1581 08CAIRO783 08CAIRO792 08CAIRO862
DE RUEHEG #2431/01 3311551
O 261551Z NOV 08

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 002431



E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/26/2028

REF: A. CAIRO 1581
B. CAIRO 862
C. CAIRO 792
D. CAIRO 783

Classified By: DCM Matthew H. Tueller for reason 1.4 (d).

1. (S) Summary and comment: "Youth Movement for Change"
activist Ahmed Saleh, who advocates replacing the current
Egyptian regime with a parliamentary democracy, called on us
November 25. He described the harassment he and his
colleagues face from Egyptian State Security as a "siege"
that compels him to "live on the run," and detailed his
brutal treatment in detention in 2006 following his
participation in a sit-in at the Judges' Club. Saleh
expressed interest in attending the December 3-5 "Alliance of
Youth Movements Summit" in New York, but voiced concern over
his participation being covered in the Egyptian press. Saleh
requested additional information on the summit's program, and
asked for USG assistance in scheduling meetings for him with
USG officials and members of Congress. He explained how his
movement tries to organize innocuous events, but is regularly
thwarted by State Security, which arrests and abuses movement
members. In contrast to civil society organizations that
call for reforming, not replacing, the regime, Saleh and his
movement take a different approach. The resulting intense
security service harassment does not allow the movement to
operate with effectiveness. End summary and comment.

2. (S) We contacted activist Ahmed Saleh on November 24 to
offer embassy assistance with any questions regarding the
December 3-5 "Alliance of Youth Movements Summit" in New
York. Saleh welcomed the call, and expressed ambivalence
about attending the summit due to anxiety over his
participation appearing in the Egyptian press. He also asked
for clarification regarding the summit's schedule of events.
Following a short conversation, Saleh called us back to
request a meeting in the embassy to discuss "issues I can't
talk about on the phone."

State Security Harassment and Detention

3. (S) On November 25, Saleh called on us, and began by
telling us he had been initially unsure whether our phone
conversation the previous evening was a "trick by State
Security officers pretending to be U.S. embassy personnel."
Saleh described how he lives on the run from State Security,
using 3 or 4 different phones to make GOE surveillance
efforts more difficult and rarely sleeping at his home. To
earn a living, he works as a "fixer" for international media
companies, setting up appointments and interviews for
journalists, and doing translations. Saleh recounted how he
and his colleagues in the "Youth Movement for Change" speak
on the phone in coded messages and hold informal meetings in
remote restaurants where they do not believe State Security
will look for them. Saleh characterized the movement as
currently "under siege" by state security. He noted that
within the past week police had arrested one colleague in the
movement, a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated blogger named
Mohammed Adel.

4. (S) Saleh detailed his arrest and six-week detention in
April 2006 after his participation at a sit-in demonstration
at the Judges Club in Cairo. He said that the police
"tortured" him for the first 3 days and then placed him in a
cell with heavy cigarette smokers in order to exacerbate his
already existing breathing problems. Saleh noted that his
health is still weak as a result of this abuse. Saleh told
us that he went on a two-week hunger strike in prison and was
placed in solitary confinement for three weeks. Saleh
believed that the officers who mistreated him repeatedly
reported his condition to senior security officials whom they
addressed with respect as "General" or "Sir."

Views on the Summit and Lobbying the USG

5. (C) Saleh expressed interest in attending the December 3-5
"Alliance for Youth Movements Summit" in New York, saying
that he would welcome the opportunity to meet other activists
and discuss with Facebook how the company could facilitate
his movement's activities by allowing them to delete users
who are trying to infiltrate their on-line discussions. He
stressed his view that solely attending the conference is not
worth the risk of being sent back to jail, so he is
interested in holding a series of meetings in the U.S. with

CAIRO 00002431 002 OF 002

"influential U.S. officials, members of the Obama transition
team, members of Congress and think tanks" to lobby on behalf
of democracy and human rights in Egypt. Saleh requested
Department assistance in facilitating such meetings. Citing
the film "Charlie Wilson's War," Saleh opined that even one
member of Congress can make a significant difference.

6. (C) He laid out his movement's publicly expressed vision
for a democratic Egypt, involving a three-year transitional
government appointed by the judiciary followed by free and
fair elections for parliament, an empowered prime minister, a
weakened presidency and a new constitution. He noted that he
had been in contact with unnamed members of Freedom House to
discuss scheduling U.S. meetings. Saleh described a recent
conversation in Cairo with an unnamed Amcit who advised him
on potential Washington meetings and is working to include
him in an early December dinner in New York with Egyptian
activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim. Saleh said he hoped to lobby
influential Washington officials in December and then again
in 2009. He described the Obama administration as "the last
hope" for effecting democratic change in Egypt. He lamented
that although the Bush administration worked for democratic
change in Egypt, "the despot (i.e. Mubarak) is still in

7. (C) Saleh said he had reached an understanding with
Department officials that his name would not appear in USG
press releases related to the summit, and reiterated his hope
that his name would not appear in the Egyptian press in
connection with the summit. Saleh realized that the Egyptian
embassy could easily send officials to observe the summit,
but told us he did not want to "help the GOE" by publicizing
his participation. He requested the latest details on the
conference program, noting that he did not clearly understand
what kind of presentation he would be expected to deliver.
We responded that we agreed with the idea of not mentioning
his name in USG press statements. We also noted that the
event will be public and streamed on-line, and committed to
providing him with additional details on the summit.

The Youth Movement for Change

8. (C) Saleh noted that the "Youth Movement for Change" is
also referred to as "April 6 Youth" after the strike it
helped organize this past spring (ref D). He said there are
800 active members of the group, supplemented by 70,000 on
the Internet. Saleh dismissed Israa Abdel Fattah, the
"Facebook girl" who was arrested following the April 6
strikes (refs B and C), as merely "someone who makes posts on
the Internet." He characterized Abdel Fattah and Ahmed
Nasser as Al-Ghad party activists who are not part of his
movement, and with whom he does not feel comfortable
speaking. According to Saleh, the movement tries to organize
events, such as a recent "Day of Love" in a Cairo park where
the activists simply planned to congregate, but State
Security consistently thwarts their plans. During the
November 4 park event, Saleh recounted, police detained
several activists as they were trying to assemble. (Note:
Per ref A, police arrested members of the movement in
Alexandria in July for marching in the street and singing
patriotic songs. End note.) According to Saleh, police
arrested one female member of the group as she was returning
home from Cairo to Tanta (a Delta town approximately 75 miles
north of Cairo), and then "stripped and sexually molested
her" causing her subsequently to suffer a nervous breakdown.
Saleh asserted that the security services attack female
members of the movement to instill widespread fear. Saleh
told us the movement wants to re-create strikes on April 6,
2009, but is not hopeful that it can succeed, due to pressure
from the security services.

9. (S) Comment: Saleh is an idealistic young activist who
was enthusiastic about speaking to us for the first time, and
expressed an interest in continuing our discussion. His
"Youth Movement for Change" favors replacing the regime, an
approach different from more mainstream civil society
organizations that advocate for incremental change through
tactics such as public awareness campaigns, draft legislation
and capacity building. State Security is apparently working
to disrupt even the movement's most innocuous gatherings, and
is preventing the movement's current activities from gaining
any traction.
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