Egypt Shi’ite Activists Released

Press Release

2 December 2007

The Ministry of Interior released Egyptian Shi’ite activist Mohamed El-Derini yesterday after two months in administrative detention under the Emergency Law, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and the Hisham Mubarak Law Center (HMLC) said today.

Derini, who heads the Supreme Council for the Care of the Prophet’s Family, was detained on 1 October and charged with “promoting extreme Shi’ite beliefs with the intent of causing contempt of the Islamic religion” and with “spreading false rumors and inciting propaganda that could promote terror amongst people, disturb public security and the rule of law and undermine the trust in security agencies through claiming that prisoners and detainees died as a result of torture in prisons.” He was interrogated by the State Security Prosecutor’s Office about his adherence to Shi’ite Muslim beliefs and about media interviews in which he criticized the torture of Islamist detainees in Egypt.

Lawyers from the EIPR and HMLC had filed an appeal against Derini’s detention before the State Security Emergency Court, which ordered his release on 13 November. Under the Emergency Law, the Ministry of Interior has a window of 15 days to appeal the release order. The Ministry of Interior did not appeal the release order, and Derini was transferred to the offices of the State Security Intelligence Service in Lazoghly where he spent two days in unlawful incommunicado detention before being released last night.

The second defendant in the same case, Ahmed Mohamed Sobh, also secured a release order from the State Security Emergency Court on 10 November but was only freed by the Interior Ministry on 25 November, after two weeks of unlawful detention.

The EIPR and HMLC urge the Public Prosecutor to immediately drop all charges against Derini and Sobh and to conduct an investigation into their arbitrary arrest and unlawful detention. The two organizations also call on the government to end the practice of detaining people for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of belief and expression.