3 British Islamic fundamentalists released from prison

Three British Islamic fundamentalists, who were released after they spent nearly three years in an Egyptian prison for membership in a banned religious party, left Cairo Wednesday for home, a British diplomat said.

"They have left Cairo this morning on their way back home," said a British diplomat who did not want to be identified.

Egypt agreed to release Ian Malcolm Nisbett, Maajid Nawaz and Reza Pankhurst after they spent nearly three years in prison for membership in the banned religious Hizb ut-Tahrir, or the Liberation Party.

The three men, all in their late twenties, were arrested in early 2002 and charged with attempting to revive the Islamic fundamentalist group, Hizb ut-Tahrir, which the Egyptian government banned in 1974. They have been in prison since then and had no right to appeal as they were convicted and sentenced by a security court. The prison year lasts nine months in Egypt.

The defendants families appealed for their release after they had served three quarters of their sentence.

The prosecutor's office and prison authorities both completed the release formalities and set them free on Tuesday, the diplomat said.

During their trial, they three men complained they were tortured but the court had said that medical examinations found no evidence of mistreatment.

They were part of a group of 26 people, nearly all Egyptians, who were sentenced to prison terms of one to five years. All were charged with trying to revive the banned group and for possessing propaganda leaflets. Amnesty International had condemned the convictions.

The Liberation Party was founded in Jordan in 1953 and has branches in several Arab and foreign, reports the AP.

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