Release of Islamic Scholar Detained for his Religious Views

Press Release

23 April 2006

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) today announced that the Interior Ministry has released Islamic scholar Metwalli Ibrahim Metwalli after spending nearly three years in administrative detention under the Emergency Law for the religious views he had expressed in unpublished research in Qur'anic studies and Arabic linguistics.

State Security Intelligence officers arrested Mr. Metwalli, who holds two degrees from Al-Azhar University in Arabic linguistics and Islamic law, on 18 May 2003. He was referred after almost two months of unlawful detention to the State Security Prosecution Office where he was questioned about his views on religious conversion and the right of Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men. On 29 October 2003 the prosecution ordered Mr. Metwalli’s release without charging him with any offence, but the Interior Ministry issued an administrative detention decree against him on the same day and he remained in detention under the Emergency Law until his release on 7 July 2006.

“President Mubarak and other state officials who still claim the Emergency Law is only invoked in terrorism and drug-trafficking cases must explain how a religious scholar spent nearly three years in detention with no charge or trail simply because his religious views were not to the liking of State Security Intelligence officers,” said Hossam Bahgat, Director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

Prior to his release Mr. Metwalli had obtained eight final release orders from the Supreme State Security Emergency Court, the latest of which was issues last January. The Interior Ministry, as usual, refused to implement these rulings and, instead, issued a new administrative detention order every time he was issued a court ruling that ordered his release.

Mr. Metwalli’s release came one month before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights was scheduled to consider a complaint against the Egyptian government regarding his detention. The complaint, submitted last November by the EIPR and INTERIGHTS, charged the government with violating Mr. Metwalli’s rights to fair trial, equality, freedom of belief, freedom of expression and freedom from arbitrary detention, all of which are protected under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, ratified by the Egyptian government in 1986.