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  Updated: June 24, 2005

Rights groups slam Egypt’s pattern of abuse toward Shias

By: Sultan Ahmed

CAIRO, EGYPT: A United Nations human rights group renewed its call for the Egyptian government to release a Shia advocate held in detention for more than a year without being charged.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said the lengthy unauthorized detention of Mohammad Ad-Derini was "in contravention" of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Egypt's obligations in the charter.

In a statement, the group said: "Having found the detention of Derini to be arbitrary, the Working Group requests the Arab Republic of Egypt to take necessary steps to remedy the situation."

Derini has been in police custody since March 2004. A Cairo court has ordered his release four times, but the Interior Ministry has refused to free him, citing national emergency laws in place since President Hosni Mubarak came to power to keep him behind bars.

An Interior Ministry official wouldn't say why he was detained, but a Shia advocacy group said he was targeted because he'd tried to establish a forum for Egypt's oppressed Shia community.

According to another group his writings about holy Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him and his pure progeny)'s dynasty (Ahlul Bayt, peace be upon them) and their right to succeed him as rulers of Islam could also have been a factor.

Rights groups have condemned what they call the Egyptian government's pattern of abuse toward the Shias, saying they have documented at least 124 cases of Shias being arbitrarily arrested, held for long periods without trial, and sometimes tortured.

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