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Egypt

    June 28, 2013

    The Egyptian authorities must uphold the right to peaceful assembly and protect protesters and bystanders from violence, Amnesty International said today ahead of planned nationwide demonstrations this weekend.

    Opponents of President Mohamed Morsi are expected to take to the streets en masse in cities across Egypt to mark his first year in office on 30 June, with his supporters holding counter-rallies.

    "Given the appalling track record in policing demonstrations, it is absolutely imperative that the Egyptian authorities issue very clear instructions to security forces to uphold protesters’ right to freedom of assembly and refrain from unnecessary or excessive force," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.

    “They should make clear that anyone responsible for arbitrary and abusive force will be brought to justice.”

    June 24, 2013

    Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi must urgently tackle the unprecedented level of sectarian violence against Shi’a Muslims and ensure they are protected from further attacks, Amnesty International said after four Shi’a men were killed in south Cairo during a violent attack on Sunday.

    “The Egyptian authorities must immediately order an independent and impartial investigation into the killing of the four men, and send a clear message that carrying out attacks and inciting violence against Shi’a Muslims will not be tolerated,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

    “Investigations must look at why security forces yet again failed to stop the bloodshed, as well as whether advocacy of hatred and incitement to violence played a role.”

    On 23 June, a large group of villagers surrounded the house of local Shi’a Muslim resident, Farahat Ali Mohamed, in the Zawiyat Abu Musalam village in Giza, where a religious ceremony was being held.

    The villagers demanded that visiting Shi’a Sheikh Hassan Shahata hand himself over to them.

    June 17, 2013

    A recent one-year prison sentence handed down against a prominent opposition activist in Egypt is the latest attempt by the government to silence criticism, Amnesty International said today while calling for the conviction to be quashed and for him to be released.

    On 15 June, an Alexandria appeals court upheld the conviction against Hassan Mostafa for insulting and attacking a public prosecutor but lowered his sentence from two years in prison to one year with labour.

    Mostafa, who denies the accusations against him, was not brought to the hearing on Saturday.

    “The conviction against Hassan Mostafa is the latest blow to freedom of expression in Egypt, where we see case after case of opposition activists, bloggers, comedians and protesters facing trial for criticizing the authorities or ‘defaming religion’,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

    June 11, 2013

    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday announced, in a televised speech, that he would show no more tolerance for protests that have shaken the country for nearly two weeks.

    Andrew Gardner, Turkey researcher at Amnesty International who is currently in Istanbul, responded: “The Turkish Prime Minister has sought to declare the recent wave of protest over by personal diktat - this is not how the freedom of assembly works. Prime Minister Erdogan now bears personal responsibility for the violence that immediately followed his words. Peaceful protest must be respected and the international community must urge him to change tack to prevent further unnecessary bloodshed.”

    Following the Prime Minister’s speech, Amnesty International observers reported at least 30 tear gas canisters thrown into Gezi Park on Tuesday evening, despite the Istanbul Governor’s pledge earlier in the day to halt the police intervention there.

    Activists have now been protesting for nearly two weeks against the construction of a shopping centre in Gezi Park adjacent to Istanbul’s Taksim Square, one of the last green spaces in the city.

    June 11, 2013

    Criminal “defamation of religion” charges must be dropped in a number of cases across Egypt, Amnesty International said today after a teacher was convicted for insulting Islam and the Prophet Muhammad in the classroom.

    A Luxor court on Tuesday fined Coptic Christian teacher Dimyana Obeid Abd Al Nour 100,000 Egyptian pounds (approx. US$14,000) for allegedly insulting Islam and the Prophet Muhammad during one of her classes. It also referred compensation claims to civil court.

    Her criminal conviction bodes ill for others in Egypt who have been facing trial on similar charges which the organization said are aimed at criminalizing criticism of or insult to religious beliefs.

    “Slapping criminal charges with steep fines and, in most cases, prison sentences against people for simply speaking their mind or holding different religious beliefs is simply outrageous,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director.

    June 05, 2013

    Egypt’s authorities must overturn the conviction of 43 people for working at unregistered non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Egypt and receiving illegal foreign funding, Amnesty International said.

    The NGO workers were sentenced to between one and five years in prison by the Cairo Criminal Court on Tuesday.

    Amnesty International urges the Egyptian authorities to respect freedom of association and enable NGOs to carry out work in the country without hindrance.

    “The verdict appears to be intended to deal a deadly blow to civil society in Egypt,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    “The Egyptian authorities must act now to protect independent civil society in Egypt and respect their commitment to human rights. This ruling sends a message that the Egyptian authorities continue to view NGOs with suspicion because of their work addressing and exposing human rights violations.”

    Five of the 43 NGO workers were sentenced to two years in jail and fined 1,000 Egyptian pounds (US$143).

    May 29, 2013

    A new law on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Egypt, currently with the Shura Council, would effectively be a death blow to independent civil society in Egypt, said Amnesty International.

    If it passes in its current form, the Egyptian authorities would have wide-ranging powers over the registration, activities and funding of civil society organizations. It would also allow for the creation of a new Co-ordinating Committee, which is likely to include representatives of security and intelligence agencies.

    Those found in violation of the law would face hefty fines and potential prison sentences.

    President Morsi announced today that he had referred the law to the Shura Council, Egypt’s nominal upper house of parliament. While the lower house remains dissolved, the Council has the authority to pass new legislation until elections are held to elect a lower house.

    May 17, 2013

    There are credible fears that the charges against a well-known opposition activist in Alexandria may be spurious and in retaliation for his activism, Amnesty International said as his appeal hearing is due to resume.

    On 12 March, the activist Hassan Mostafa was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison for insulting and attacking a public prosecutor in Alexandria – accusations he vehemently denies. The case was marred by procedural irregularities and the refusal of the trial court to hear all defence witnesses. Hassan Mostafa is currently being held at the Borg al-Arab Prison and will attend his next hearing on Saturday.

    “We fear that Hassan Mostafa may be imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and other human rights, in which case Amnesty International would consider him to be a prisoner of conscience and call for his immediate and unconditional release,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    “The appeals court must review all the evidence in this case.”

    May 10, 2013

    A Coptic Christian teacher detained in Egypt on charges of “defamation of religion” must be immediately released and the criminal case against her dropped, said Amnesty International today, ahead of her appearance in court on Saturday.

    Dimyana Obeid Abd Al Nour, 24, has been in custody since 8 May, when she went to the public prosecution’s office in Luxor to respond to charges of “defamation of religion”. The case against her is based on a complaint lodged by the parents of three of her students alleging that she insulted Islam and the Prophet Muhammad during a class.

    The alleged incident took place at the Sheikh Sultan primary school in Tout, Luxor Governorate, on 8 April during a lesson on “religious life”. Dimyana Obeid Abd Al Nour has been teaching at three schools in Luxor since the beginning of this year.

    May 10, 2013

    Amnesty's Egypt Researcher Diana Eltahawy blogs from Cairo

    Today I attended the first hearing in the trial of 12 people, including three leading activists, at a Dar Al Qadaa Al-Ali court. They are accused of attacking and burning the campaign headquarters of former presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq on 28 May 2012.

    Amnesty International fears that the activists are being pursued in a politically motivated case, which comes amid the Egyptian authorities’ crackdown on freedom of expression and dissent.

    May 03, 2013

    “It’s ironic that May 3rd is World Press Freedom Day and I’m facing trial the next day just for posting a video.” Egyptian blogger Ahmed Anwar

    In Egypt, making fun of the authorities is no laughing matter. It’s a criminal offence.

    When blogger Ahmed Anwar posted a video of belly-dancing policemen on-line, he expected to get some laughs. Instead, he’s on trial for “criticizing” the Interior Ministry and “misusing” the Internet.

    In March 2012, Ahmed Anwar posted a video on-line which made fun of police officers giving an award to an actress, calling them “the ministry of belly dancers”.  The video, showing police officers dancing, criticizes police brutality and impunity for human rights abuses. The Tanta Public Prosecution bought a case against him after the Ministry of Interior complained about the video. Ahmed Anwar was arrested by police at his house on March 17, 2013 and referred for trial ten days later. His trial started on May 4. The next hearing is scheduled for June 1.

    April 16, 2013

    President Mohamed Morsi should release the findings of an official investigation he instigated into abuses against protesters without delay and ensure the armed forces are not above the law and are held accountable for abuses, Amnesty International said today.

    Amnesty International is alarmed that statements by the authorities in response to part of the report being leaked effectively signal that impunity will continue for human rights violations by the army.

    The organization has also expressed its dismay over apparent claims by Egypt’s Public Prosecutor that the full report contained no evidence of army abuse – despite the fact that leaked excerpts of the report clearly detail human rights violations by Egypt’s military.

    Amnesty International and other groups have documented abuses by the Egyptian army since the beginning of the “25 January Revolution”.

    President Morsi appointed a fact-finding committee in July 2012 and charged it with investigating abuses against protesters committed between the start of the uprising on 25 January 2011 and the end of military rule on 30 June 2012.

    April 08, 2013

    Amnesty's Egypt researcher Diana Eltahawy blogs from Cairo

    On Sunday I attended the Cairo funeral of four Coptic Christians killed on Friday night in Khousous, a small town north of the city.

    I had been planning to travel to Khousous to find out more about the sectarian violence which led to the deaths there.

    Instead, I found myself caught up in more violence at the funeral itself — with mourners on one side, and unknown assailants and, later, security forces on the other.

    Before the clashes erupted, feelings of grief, anger and injustice were palpable inside Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo, which was filled with mourners. Tears, prayers and wailing were drowned out by chants against the government and the Muslim Brotherhood, and vows to avenge the dead.

    Shortly after the caskets and funeral procession made their way out of the cathedral, violence broke out nearby between some of the mourners and assailants reported to be residents of the area.

    April 03, 2013

    Today’s charges against yet another comedian for ‘defaming religion’ are part of an alarming new escalation of politically-motivated judicial harassment and arrests, Amnesty International has said.

    In a mounting crackdown on freedom of expression, up to 33 people have been targeted within the last two weeks, with arrests and charges.

    Some have been charged with what seem to be politically motivated or trumped-up criminal charges. Others are charged with ‘insulting the President’ or ‘defamation’ of religion for actions that should not be criminalized as they merely amount to the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression.  

    “We are seeing arrests and charges for literally nothing more than cracking a few jokes. This is a truly alarming sign of the government’s increasing intolerance of any criticism whatsoever,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.  

    March 06, 2013

    Two laws that would severely restrict the work of independent civil society organizations and limit freedom of assembly in Egypt should be significantly amended or dropped, Amnesty International said today as the country’s Upper House of parliament prepared to debate the proposed legislation.

    A draft law proposed by the Ministry of Local Development tabled for discussion tomorrow would further tighten restrictions imposed on non-governmental organizations working in Egypt, including on registration, activities and obtaining foreign funding.

    Under this plus another proposal by the Ministry of Insurance and Social Affairs (MISA), authorities would retain powers to reject or block registration of NGOs and would have wide grounds for dissolving organizations.

    The draft law developed by MISA allows government officials to enter the headquarters of NGOs to monitor their records and activities. It also bans activities on the grounds of “threatening national unity, violating public order or morals”, as well as “field research” and opinion polling unless prior permission is obtained from relevant authorities.

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