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Egypt

    January 27, 2016

    Today’s appeal court ruling upholding a two-year prison sentence for five activists, who were convicted of allegedly taking part in a protest last year, is yet another example of the unfair and arbitrary nature of Egypt’s criminal justice system, Amnesty International said.

    Surgeon and poet Ahmed Said was among the five activists who were arrested and jailed in November 2015 for allegedly taking part in a protest. However, according to defence lawyers working on the case, there is no evidence proving that the protest, as stated in the National Security Agency’s investigations report, actually took place.

    The report is based on the investigations of a single National Security Agency officer, but at least two of the activists say they were tortured and ill-treated during interrogation. Some of the offences for which they were convicted, such as assembling without a permit, are in themselves contrary to international standards as they criminalize the exercise of protected human rights, while others, such as disrupting traffic, were unfounded.

    January 26, 2016

    The continued detention of Mahmoud Hussein, a 20-year-old student who has spent more than two years in jail without charge or trial as of today, is yet another appalling example of the ruthless and repressive tactics Egypt is resorting to in a bid to crush dissent, said Amnesty International.

    Under Egyptian law, the maximum time a person can be detained without being tried or sentenced is an already excessively long period of two years, for those facing accusations that could lead to life imprisonment or the death penalty. Mahmoud Hussein was arrested at the age of 18 for wearing a “Nation Without Torture” t-shirt and a scarf with the logo of “25 January Revolution”. He has also been tortured in detention and forced to sign a “confession” by the National Security Agency.

    January 22, 2016

    By Mohamed Lotfy, Executive director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms and former researcher for Amnesty International. 

    Never before in my 10-year career has working on human rights in Egypt been so dangerous. 

    Today in Egypt, human rights activists, lawyers, political activists and independent journalists, all have to live with their phone calls being tapped, endless smear campaigns and hate speech from state-affiliated media as well as continuous harassment and intimidation from the authorities. 

    For some, this relentless persecution can even lead to arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention, harsh sentences after unfair trials and sometimes even torture, enforced disappearance at the hands of the state or death in custody as a result of medical negligence. This is pretty much the same list of human rights violations suffered by the people whose rights such defenders are meant to be protecting through their activism and work. 

    December 11, 2015

    A 14-year-old boy who says he was raped in detention by Egyptian National Security agents must be immediately released and those responsible for torturing him brought to justice, Amnesty International said today.

    Mazen Mohamed Abdallah’s family told the organization the teenager was repeatedly tortured in custody, given electric shocks on his genitals and had a wooden stick repeatedly thrust into his anus as police forced him to confess to protesting without authorization and belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood group.

    “The horrific abuse described by Mazen Mohamed Abdallah gives a sickening insight into the widespread and routine use of torture and ill-treatment by Egyptian security forces in police stations,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

    “That such abuse is meted out against children in detention is utterly deplorable.”

    December 10, 2015

    The Egyptian authorities’ continued detention of photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, widely known as Shawkan, exposes the rank hypocrisy behind their claim to uphold press freedom, Amnesty International said, ahead of the start of the photojournalist’s mass trial with 738 others on 12 December.

    In an open letter addressed to the Egyptian Public Prosecutor, the organization called for Mahmoud Abu Zeid to be released immediately and unconditionally, and for all charges against him to be dropped.

    “Mahmoud Abu Zeid is a prisoner of conscience who has spent more than two years - 848 days - in pre-trial detention solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    “This 28 year-old-man should be free, not languishing behind bars as his health deteriorates. His journalism is not a crime.”

    Mahmoud Abu Zeid is suffering from Hepatitis C and has been denied access to essential medication. His lawyers have appealed to the Public Prosecutor at least 17 times for his release on medical grounds, without success.

    December 02, 2015

    Photojournalist, Mahmoud Abu Zeid (known as Shawkan), is passionate about taking pictures. He is now paying the price for his peaceful work and faces life imprisonment.

    Police arrested Mahmoud Abu Zeid in August 2013 after he photographed security forces’ violent dispersal of street protests in Cairo. Mahmoud Abu Zeid has been in detention ever since, in violation of Egyptian law that sets the maximum period for pre-trial detention at two years. He is the only Egyptian journalist to have been held beyond the two-year cap on pre-trial detention.

    Shawkan has been referred to Cairo’s Criminal Court to face trumped-up charges in a mass trial of 738 defendants. The first court session is set for December 12, and his lawyer has yet to be given access to the full casefile. Amnesty International considers Shawkan to be a prisoner of conscience and is calling for his immediate and unconditional release. 

    This is his latest letter from prison:

    November 08, 2015

    The arrest of a prominent advocate of freedom of expression in Egypt today is a clear signal of the Egyptian authorities’ resolve to continue with their ferocious onslaught against independent journalism and civil society, said Amnesty International.

    Hossam Bahgat was summoned by military intelligence to appear for questioning this morning, apparently in connection with articles that he wrote about the Egyptian army, which the military has deemed to be a threat to its security. Amnesty International has learned that he is being charged by the military prosecutor in what could be a flagrant violation of his right to freedom of expression.

    “The arrest of Hossam Bahgat today is yet another nail in the coffin for freedom of expression in Egypt. He is being detained and questioned by the military prosecutor for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and must be immediately and unconditionally released. Any charges brought against him must be dropped,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

    October 21, 2015

    An armed raid on a journalism NGO in Cairo today marks a dangerous escalation in the Egyptian authorities’ crackdown on freedom of expression and association, said Amnesty International.

    Members of the security forces carrying guns and wearing masks stormed the office of the Mada Foundation for Media Development this morning and arrested all staff members present. The reasons for the raid are not clear but, according to information available to Amnesty International, security forces did not have a search or arrest warrant from the prosecutor’s office as required by Egyptian law.

    “Carrying out an armed raid against an NGO which works to expand the skills of journalists sends a chilling and clear message that independent journalism and activities of civil society will not be tolerated in today’s Egypt. This is an unlawful assault and has all the hallmarks of yet another attempt to clamp down on independent journalism in the country,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    September 28, 2015

    The international community must not be fooled by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s veneer of reform and empty promises, said Amnesty International ahead of a speech at the UN General Assembly in New York later today. 

    The widely publicized prisoner pardons have yet to be implemented fully. While two Al Jazeera journalists, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, and several prominent activists were among those released on 23 September, seven activists remain in detention despite supposedly being pardoned last week. 

    “Most of those pardoned by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi should never have been locked up in the first place because they were peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly. But given the authorities’ intolerance of peaceful dissent, the space vacated in prison cells by those freed in the pardon will be filled up again all too soon,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International. 

    September 25, 2015

    Media workers Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed are free. Just weeks after a court sentenced them to another three years in prison, Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has cut short the rest of their sentences and released them under a presidential pardon.

    For more than a year and a half they have been persecuted by Egyptian authorities – forced to endure two drawn-out, politically-motivated trials and months in prison – simply for their work for news channel Al Jazeera English.

    Their release is very welcome news, although they should never have been jailed for the ludicrous charges of ‘broadcasting false news’ and operating as journalists without authorisation. We continue to call on Egyptian authorities to drop all criminal charges against them and their colleague Peter Greste.

    September 23, 2015

    Today’s presidential decree granting pardons to 100 people including Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed and several unlawfully imprisoned activists including Sana Seif and Yara Sallam is welcome news, but represents little more than a token gesture, said Amnesty International.

    The organization said the pardons, made ahead of the Muslim Eid holiday, should be followed by further action to seriously address the appalling human rights record under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, including the intolerance of peaceful dissent and criticism of the authorities.

    “While these pardons come as a great relief, it is ludicrous that some of these people were ever behind bars in the first place. Hundreds remain behind bars for protesting or because of their journalistic work. All those jailed for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression, assembly and association or because of their journalistic or human rights work must have their convictions quashed and be immediately and unconditionally released,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    September 18, 2015

    Tarek Tito's brother Mahmoud Hussein has spent over a year in an Egyptian jail, simply for wearing an anti-torture T-shirt. On the anniversary of Mahmoud's 600th day in jail, Tarek writes his younger brother a letter.

    My little Mahmoud, 600 days have passed and you are not yet home.

    I can no longer stand your absence.  The bitterness of separation disrupts our small family. Mother makes your bed every morning while she hides her tears from us, and Father stares at your face in the photos that now cover his room. It’s as if he is getting to know you all over again. We miss your laughter and await your freedom with every sunrise.

    The day I almost lost my mind

    You have been detained for more than 600 days for wearing a t-shirt that said “Nation without Torture”. That was our dream following the 25 January Revolution – the dream of a country that respects and honours the human body and protects it from torture.

    August 29, 2015

     

    The guilty verdicts handed down against Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed are an affront to justice that sound the death knell for freedom of expression in Egypt, said Amnesty International. 

    The Cairo criminal court ruled that the journalists broadcasted “false news” and worked without registration, sentencing Mohamed Fahmy to three years in prison and Baher Mohamed to three and a half years in prison. Their co-defendant, Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste, was convicted in his absence and sentence to three years in prison.

    August 18, 2015

    The decision by an Egyptian court to refer the case of a photojournalist to a criminal court while extending his pre-trial detention, represents yet another hefty blow to human rights and the rule of law in the country, said Amnesty International. Mahmoud Abu Zeid, widely known as Shawkan, is among hundreds who have been held in pre-trial detention for more than two years across the country.

    “The decision to extend the detention of Shawkan until the criminal court sets a date for the trial, is disgraceful and a blatant violation of international human rights standards. It also contravenes the Egyptian constitution and national law which limits pre-trial detention to an already prolonged period of two years if the detainee is not sentenced within that period” said Said Boumedouha, Acting Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    “By arbitrarily detaining hundreds of people for lengthy periods pending trial, the Egyptian authorities are sending a clear message that they will stop at nothing to quash all signs of dissent – even flouting their own laws in the process.”

    August 13, 2015

    Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is expected to sign a deeply worrying new counterterrorism bill into law today which contravenes the Egyptian Constitution and international human rights law, Amnesty International said.

    According to Egypt’s Minister of Justice Ahmed El Zend, the President has the law on his desk for final approval today ahead of 14 August, the second anniversary of a police operation to disperse protesters camped in Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adaweya and Nahda squares, which resulted in the killing of more than 600 protesters and mass arbitrary arrests, among other human rights violations.

    “This new law will become yet another tool for the authorities to crush all forms of dissent and steamroll over basic human rights. It is an abomination that will only pave the way for more horrific incidents like Rabaa in the future. The Egyptian authorities must drop the draft law or fundamentally revise it,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.

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