Should Egypt hand over Ahmed Qaddaf al-Dam?

We were not silent when Hosni Mubarak handed Mansour el-Kekhia, former Libyan Foreign Minister, human rights and opposition activist, over to the Gaddafi regime. We shall not be silent now at the arrest, in Egypt, of Gadaffi's cousin, Ahmed Qaddaf al-Dam, former Egyptian-Libyan relations coordinator, and the intention to hand him over to the Libyan authorities.

We should expect Islamist regimes, which have come to power through the ballot box, especially in Egypt, to be more committed to human rights. However, it seems that our expectations are misplaced and Islamist regimes in both Egypt and Tunisia have neglected all these rights, either as a result of external pressure, or financial temptations.

Of course, Gaddafi's regime was dictatorial and corrupt. It committed numerous crimes, such as assassinating his opponents, the public hanging of students at the University of Benghazi, besides killing more than a thousand Islamists in Abu Salim Prison. He also handed over political refugees to their native countries even when they were facing death, such as Sudanese Major Hashim Atta, who was planning a coup against President Gaafar Nimeiry.

Now in the new, supposedly democratic era in parts of the Arab World, we see the  Tunisian authorities handing over Baghdadi Mahmudi, former Libyan Prime Minister, for financial and economic incentives.

It is unfortunate that the Egyptian authorities have followed suit and arrested several supporters of the former Libyan regime who had fled to Egypt to seek safety, security and justice due to its ancient heritage of welcoming political refugees and providing them with protection and a decent living.

Egypt has been the home to dozens of political refugees, from the Saudi monarch, former King Saud bin Abdulaziz, to the Shah of Iran Reza Pahlavi, Prince Talal Bin Abdul Aziz, and his brother Prince Turki bin Abdul Aziz. It also embraced Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, President Abdul Rahman Arif, and dozens of Yemeni politicians such as Ahmed al-Numan Abd al-Rahman al-Baidhani.

During the late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser's reign, several Muslim Brotherhood leaders fled to many countries, none of which handed them over, including Saudi Arabia.

Dozens of Iraqi refugees, including the daughters of the late President Saddam Hussein sought refuge in Qatar, Jordan, Yemen. The Iraqi authorities have requested their extradition, and none of these countries handed them, providing them with a decent living instead.

Rashid al-Ghannushi, leader of Tunisia's Ennahda Party lived in Britain for twenty years, and the British authorities rejected President Ben Ali's request for him to be handed over. The British recently deported Abu Hamza al-Masri and Khalid al-Fawaz to the US, on charges of their affiliation to al-Qaeda, but this was only done after a fierce legal battle which lasted over 13 years.

We do not want Egypt to lose its position in the region as a major power which respects the law and provides a safe haven for refugees who seek security and safety.

International law must be respected, but there are procedures to be followed in this regard, such as only transferring individuals to governments which have a fair and independent justice system – sadly, this is not the case in Libya. Saif al-Islam Gaddafi is still imprisoned by Zintan militia in Nafusa Western Mount, and the Libyan parliament holds its meetings in a tent because it can't hold them at its headquarters which is occupied by other militia.

There are reports that Egyptian authorities only arrested Qaddaf al-Dam, in return for promises of financial aid from Libya. If this is true, it is a disastrous precedent. Tunisian authorities did not get one penny for the rendition of Mahmoudi, according to a senior Tunisian official.

We agree with Egyptian journalist Mohamed Hassanein Heikal who denounced this arrest claiming that it has an impact on Egypt's reputation and make a mockery of its judicial system and its legacy in respecting the rights of refugees.

We appeal to President Mohammed Morsi to intervene, and hand over al-Dam to Libya only after making sure that he is guilty, and convicted of the charges against him.

Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser refused to hand over Libya's King Idris as-Senussi to his friend Muammar Gaddafi, even after Gaddafi offered him dinner, on his return from the Libyan Embassy in Ankara, and handed him $30,000, as as-Senussi couldn't afford dinner for himself and his companions.

We hope that the Egyptian government places Islamic values above economic interests, and financial promises, if there are any, in order to preserve and respect Egypt's history and heritage in this area.