Detained Qur'anis Must be Immediately Released

Press Release

15 July 2007

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) today reiterated its call for the immediate release of five men held in administrative detention since late last May because of their religious views. The EIPR also urged the Public Prosecutor to order a prompt investigation into the allegation that at least one of the detainees was subjected to beatings and threatened with rape while in detention.
The five men, in addition to two other Egyptians who live abroad, are facing the charge of  "exploiting religion to promote extreme ideas in contempt of the Islamic religion, by denying the sunna [Prophet's legacy] and considering the Qur'an to be the main source of legislation". No decision to refer the defendants to criminal trial has been issued yet.      
"State Security Intelligence has no right to arrest citizens for their religious views," said Adel Ramadan, a lawyer with the EIPR's Right to Privacy Program. "The infamous and highly problematic 'contempt of religions' provision in the Penal Code is once again being used to violate the right to freedom of religion and belief."
On 29 May 2007 State Security Intelligence (SSI) officers detained Abdel-Latif Mohamed Ahmed, Ahmed Mohamed Dahmash and Abdel-Hamid Mohamed Abdel-Rahman, using an administrative detention decree issued by the Interior Minister under the Emergency Law. Two days later a similar decree was issued to detain Amr Tharwat Al-Baz, while lawyer Ayman Mohamed Abdel-Rahman was detained on 17 June. The five men were not allowed to contact their families or lawyers until 21 June, four days after their interrogation before the State Security Prosecution Office began. The same charges were leveled against Ahmed Sobhi Mansur and Othman Mahmoud Ali who reside in the US and Canada respectively.
The EIPR's lawyer, who was present at times during the interrogations, which ended on 3 July, confirmed that the interrogators' questions were confined to the detainees' religious views. Charges included "rejecting the penalty for apostasy" and "rejecting the stoning of adulterers." Additionally, during the interrogation session of 28 June Abde-Latif Mohamed Ahmed told a State Security Prosecutor that he had received beatings on the face and back and was threatened with rape while at the SSI office in Shubra Al-Kheima to force him to sign false confessions.
On 3 July the EIPR filed an appeal against the administrative detention of four of the defendants who had been detained for more than 30 days as stipulated by the Emergency Law. On 12 and 14 July the Emergency State Security Court ordered the release of Abdel-Latif Mohamed Ahmed, Abdel-Hamid Mohamed Abdel-Rahman and Amr Tharwat Al-Baz. The Court did not consider the appeal of Ahmed Mohamed Dahmash without stating any reasons. The Emergency Law allows the Interior Ministry to appeal the release orders within ten days.
"We call on the Interior Ministry to release the men immediately without challenging the court orders," said Adel Ramadan. "We plan to challenge the detention of the other two men in due course," he continued.
The State Security Prosecution Office has also issued a decision to hold the men in preventive custody for 15 days once their administrative detention periods end. The EIPR has filed a motion before the Court of Administrative Justice requesting the Public Prosecutor to consider the appeal immediately. The Court considered the motion on 3 July and is due to issue its decision on 31 July 2007.