FOLLOWING THE LEAD OF HESIOD THEOGENY, Claudia Winkler of the Weekly Standard is coming down hard on Egypt’s conviction of dissident Saad Eddin Ibrahim and others on what she calls “trumped up charges.” Excerpt:

Egypt’s government, like all despotisms, was pleased to able to point to a respected liberal, and to his Ibn Khaldun Center for Development at the American University of Cairo, as proof of its tolerance. Ibrahim advised Mubarak’s top aides and hosted a weekly TV show on issues relating to development. It suited the regime to have him travel to international conferences on civil society to show how enlightened Egypt was.

Some observers say that what finally provoked the authorities–more than Ibrahim’s exposure of fraud in the 1995 legislative elections, or his monitoring of government treatment of the Coptic minority, or his denunciation of official corruption, or the short film he made encouraging Egypt’s young to seek freedom through elections–was his observation that Mubarak’s son Jamal was being groomed to succeed the president, just as if Egypt were some backward dictatorship like Libya or Syria or Iraq. This apparently was too close to the bone.

Now, Ibrahim, 63 and in poor health, faces the prospect of rapid decline in an Egyptian jail, unless one remaining appeal should succeed or President Mubarak exercise clemency. The United States should use its abundant leverage with Egypt to secure that end.

The only problem, says Winkler, is that “Apparently Mubarak and company don’t fear Washington.”

We need to change that.