Rights groups demand immediate release of participants in island demonstrations and condemn arrest of human rights defenders

Press Release

12 May 2016

The undersigned organizations strongly condemn the violent security crackdown on dozens of peaceful youth following calls to demonstrate against the Saudi-Egyptian maritime border agreement. Youth were arrested in an arbitrary, sweeping security campaign in which police forces raided the homes of young people and arrested them on the streets, in cafes, and on public transportation. The youth were subjected to numerous unwarranted arbitrary procedures both during arrest and interrogation.

According to confirmed data from the Front to Defend Egypt Demonstrators, 1,277 people were stopped, detained, and arrested from April 15 to April 27, 2016.

Recent weeks saw the arrest of Mohammed Nagi, a researcher and program officer for student rights and liberties at the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression; Malek Adly, a lawyer and program officer for criminal justice at the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights; Haitham Mohammedein, a lawyer with the Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture; and Ahmed Abdullah, the chair of the board of trustees of the Egyptian Commission on Rights and Liberties. These lawyers and human rights defenders thus join the long list of individuals detained for exercising their right of peaceful protest since the call went out to demonstrate on April 15.

The undersigned organizations declare their rejection of the trial of Mohammed Nagi and 46 other detainees at the Central Security Forces training camp known as Kilometer 10.5. The trial violates one of the most significant due process guarantees: the public, transparent nature of trials. Such exceptional procedures are unwarranted. All persons arrested in connection with the same events were tried in ordinary courts and in public trials open to the defendants’ families, journalists, and other interested parties.

Nagi was arrested on the afternoon of April 25, 2016 and questioned by the Agouza Prosecution with 24 other people, part of the arbitrary arrest of dozens of other people in other neighborhoods. The next day, having waited for Homeland Security investigations, the prosecution referred Nagi and eight others to an expedited trial on charges of participating in a demonstration without a permit. The Agouza Misdemeanor Court held the first trial session on Saturday, April 30, 2016, when it ruled to adjourn until May 14, 2016.

A security force raided the home of lawyer and human rights defender Haitham Mohammedein in the city of al-Saff. He was arrested at dawn on Friday, April 22, 2016, in connection with report 1561/2016/al-Saff administrative. The South Giza Incidents Prosecution charged him with joining a terrorist group in violation of the law; his detention was extended for another 15 days on May 5 pending investigation and he was placed in the Giza District Prison. Mohammedein’s lawyers have thus far been unable to view the case file. The next remand hearing is scheduled for May 18, 2016.

In a related a context, the undersigned organizations condemn the circumstances surrounding the arrest of lawyer and human rights defender Malek Adly, who was assaulted during arrest, denied contact with his family and lawyers for several hours, and questioned at the Shubra al-Kheima court complex from 2 am to 6 am on May 6, 2016. The bodies that executed the arrest warrant violated the Egyptian constitution and all international conventions, which give defendants and suspects binding rights during arrest, including the right to contact lawyers and family. We demand a swift investigation into the various violations of Adly’s rights. Several organizations, in particular the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, have already filed complaints with the competent bodies regarding the conditions of his arrest and questioning.

The list of recent detainees also includes engineer Dr. Ahmed Abdullah, whose home was raided by a heavily armed security force at dawn on April 25, 2016. After confiscating several items in his home, the force arrested him and took him to the New Cairo 1 police station. The East Cairo Prosecution questioned him at 9 am the same day in connection with an arrest warrant issued by the Public Prosecution. On April 27, 2016, the prosecution ordered him detained for 15 days pending investigation into a set of ten charges, including belonging to a terrorist group, inciting to the use of force to overthrow the regime, and inciting to terrorism, according to report no. 10698/2016/Ain Shams misdemeanor. Abdullah’s detention was renewed for another 15 days on May 7. The remand order was appealed and will be heard on May 12 by the Appellate Court.

Persons detained in connection with the demonstrations against the border agreement are held in arbitrary, poor conditions in various places of detention. For example, 47 people arrested in Doqqi and Agouza are crowded in a small cellblock with poor ventilation in the Giza District Prison (Camp Kilometer 10.5), in violation of prison regulations. As a result, most of them have contracted a contagious illness. Making matters worse, they have been denied any exercise or time outdoors in the absence of adequate medical care. Due to this, engineer Nagi Kamel, one of those arrested on suspicion, contracted a fever, while Islam Talaat suffered a mild heart attack according to the doctor at the hospital to which the prison administration transferred him. The prison administration refused to admit them to the hospital although their health condition required it. Conditions are similar in the Nahda and May 15 prisons, where inmates are also denied visits by family and attorneys.

The Egyptian authorities are obligated to respect and protect the right of freedom of opinion and expression, as guaranteed by the Egyptian constitution, which was approved by a majority of the Egyptian people in a popular referendum in 2014, and under all conventions and treaties ratified by Egypt, which has given them the force of law. The undersigned organizations note that the continued, systematic violations of one of the most fundamental rights of the citizenry is a crime for which those responsible must be held accountable. The violation of constitutionally guaranteed rights and liberties by state institutions, most egregiously the Interior Ministry, erodes the rule of law and calls into question the role of law-enforcement officials.

We reiterate our demand for the unconditional release of all persons detained or under investigation in connection with demonstrations of expression of opinion, as well as the provision of adequate detention conditions and healthcare for all persons detained. We also demand an end to measures that have further reduced the space for public action, thereby spurring chaos and instability and demonstrating that the security establishment has returned to the same practices that sparked the uprising of January 2011.

Signatory organizations:

1.  Alhaqanya Foundation of Rights and freedoms

2. Arab Network for Human Rights Information

3. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression

4. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

5. Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance

6. Egyptian Commission for rights and freedoms

7. El-Nadeem Centre for the rehabilitation of victims of violence and torture

8. Habi Center for Environmental Rights

9. Masryoon Against Religious Discrimination

10. National Community for Human Rights and Law

11. Nazra for Feminist Studies

12. The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights

13. The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights

14. The Land Center for Human Rights