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Egypt: Free prisoners of conscience

    Thursday, November 23, 2017 - 14:47

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    Download PDF of  UA 255/17 Egypt

    PDF icon255 Egypt.pdf

    Defender of women’s human rights and prisoner of conscience Mahienour El-Masry has been detained on remand, alongside activist Moataseem Medhat. If convicted, Mahienour and Moataseem, as well as three other activists, could face up to five years in prison for “participating in an unauthorized protest”, amongst other charges.

    On 18 November, the Montazah Misdemeanour Court in the city of Alexandria, Egypt’s second largest city, ordered the detention of Mahienour El-Masry (f) and Moataseem Medhat (m) until 30 December, when a verdict is expected in their trail. The detention is a result of the protest on 14 June 2016, when activists from across Egypt organized peaceful demonstrations against the Egyptian government decision to hand over two islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The court is charging Mahienour and Moataseem, along with activists Asmaa Naem (f), Waleed El-Amry (m), and Ziad Abu El-Fadl (m), with “participating in an unauthorized protest”, “show of force”, and “insulting the president”. If convicted, they could face up to five years in prison and five years of probation.

    On 18 November, only Mahienour and Motaseem attended the trial. However the judge adjourned the trial to 30 December and ordered the detention of Mahienour and Motaseem until the next session. Mahienour is currently detained in Qanater prison in Northern Cairo. 

    Amnesty International believes that the charges against the five activists are unfounded and that Mahienour and Moataseem are prisoners of conscience, imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

    Please send a letter, email, tweet or fax without delay.

    • Start with Your Excellency and a sentence about yourself to make your message unique.
    • Urge him to drop the charges against Mahienour El-Masry, Moataseem Medhat, Asmaa Naem, Waleed El-Amry and Ziad Abu El-Fadl.
    • Ask him to release Mahienour El-Masry and Moatassem Medhat without delay or conditions on their freedom because they are imprisoned only for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
    • Urge Egypt to amend protests laws 107/2013 and 10/1914 in order to ensure that they provide adequate protection to the rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

    Send your message to:

    Public Prosecutor

    Nabil Sadek

    Office of the Public Prosecutor

    Dar al-Qada al-Ali, Down Town

    Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt

    Fax:             011 2022 577 4716

    Salutation:   Dear Counsellor



    Abdel Fattah al-Sisi    

    Office of the President

    Al Ittihadia Palace     

    Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt    

    Postage:     $2.50

    Fax:            011 202 2391 1441



    Please send a copy to:


    His Excellency Moataz Mounir Zahran

    Ambassador for the Arab Republic of Egypt

    454 Laurier Avenue East

    Ottawa, Ontario K1N 6R3

    Fax:            1 (613) 234 9347  or (613) 234 4398



    Deputy Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Human Rights

    Laila Bahaa Eldin    

    Ministry of Foreign Affairs

    Corniche el-Nil

    Cairo, Egypt

    Fax:           011 202 2574 9713


    Additional information

    All five activists peacefully protested Egypt’s decision to hand over two islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Alexandria. Security forces did not arrest any protester that day. However, the Montaza prosecutor in Alexandria charged the five activists with “participating in an unauthorized protest”, “show of force”, and “insulting the President”, and then referred them to the Montazah Misdemeanour Court. The first session was supposed to be held on 19 September but was adjourned to 17 October, then to 18 November.

    Security forces arrested at least 240 political activists and protesters between April and September 2017 on charges ranging from online speech which they considered “insulting” to the president, to participating in unauthorized protests. They were mostly sentenced under protest laws 107/2013 and 10/1914.

    The 107/2013 protest law, passed in November 2013, gives the Interior Ministry wide discretionary powers over the conduct of peaceful protests. It requires organizers to submit complete plans for any gathering of more than ten people to the Interior Ministry at least three days in advance. The law also gives the Interior Ministry the authority to cancel a demonstration or change its route. This imposes a requirement for the Ministry’s prior authorization, contrary to international law and standards. The law also authorizes the security forces to use force against any protesters deemed to have committed a “crime punishable by law”, which could allow the use of unnecessary or excessive force. Protesters convicted of breaking the law could face up to five years in prison and fines of EGP100,000 (USD 5,700).

    Law 10/1914 on gatherings, the oldest statute still in force in Egypt, carries stiff penalties for peaceful assembly in the event that certain vaguely defined crimes are committed during the demonstration, such as infringement of public order or disturbance of the peace that could reach up to 25 years in prison, if coupled with destruction of property.

    The 107/2013 law carries a probation period after imprisonment. Amnesty International has described certain uses of probation in Egypt as amounting to deprivation of liberty. For more information see:

    Mahienour El-Masry is a prominent human rights lawyer in Alexandria, where she plays a leading role in defending workers’, women’s, and refugees’ rights. While in detention in 2014 for exercising her right to freedom and assembly, she was awarded the Ludovic Trarieux Human Rights Prize. It is given each year to a lawyer working in defence of human rights.

    In February 2015, Mahienour was sentenced to two years in prison. The sentence was reduced by the appeal court on 11 May 2015 to one year and three months. She was convicted of “protesting without authorization”, “damaging police property”, “attacking security forces”, and “threatening public security”. The case started on 29 March 2013, after Mahienour participated in a protest in front of al-Raml Police Station in Alexandria. The protest was in solidarity with lawyers being detained and interrogated inside the police station, after they accused police officers of verbally and physically attacking them. On 13 August 2016, Mahienour was released from jail after serving her prison term of one year and three months. 


    If you wish to receive updates on this case, email In the subject line, write “Keep me updated on UA 255/17 "Egypt".


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