Support Ismail Serageldin

In a recent editorial [14 September 2017], the science journal Nature has drawn attention to the heavy-handed treatment the Egyptian authorities have meted out to an eminent scholar, Ismail Serageldin, instrumental in re-establishing the library of Alexandria. It notes,

Next week, an appeals court in Egypt will consider the case of Ismail Serageldin — the retired founding director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, or Alexandria Library — who has been convicted of negligent management of the library and sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail. Some 90 Nobel prizewinners, among others, have signed a letter of concern stating their confidence in Serageldin’s integrity. The guilty verdict he received appears to be a miscarriage of justice. The sentence is cruel and unduly harsh. He should go free . . . The political turmoil that followed the uprising against the regime of Egypt’s then-president, Hosni Mubarak, was a time for opportunists. Some library workers with grudges, together with those who considered Serageldin a Mubarak stooge, issued more than 100 different accusations against him, ranging from corruption to money laundering. Prosecutors investigated for more than a year. Finding no evidence, they dropped the criminal charges and instead referred three minor accusations of negligent management to an administrative court in 2012 . . .

Nothing happened for a few years while the court waited for the prosecution to submit a technical report about the case, which finally arrived this year. Serageldin says that the report led him to expect a dismissal of all charges. Instead, the court found him guilty. And rather than dishing out the usual modest fine for such cases, it issued a prison sentence, something usually reserved for cases in which negligence leads to loss of life . . .

Serageldin returned to Egypt from abroad to revive the library in 2001, recreating its spirit for the digital age. He wanted to do something meaningful for his country and left a prestigious post as vice-president of the World Bank to do so.

The library is now a thriving haven of scholarship, rationalism and internationalism. It has gained respect, nationally as well internationally. During the days of the Arab Spring, impassioned employees and other supporters formed a human chain to protect the facility from being plundered. By contrast, tens of thousands of manuscripts and books were lost in a fire after clashes at the Institut d’Egypte in Cairo. click here.