EIPR appeals travel ban on Ahmed Harqan before the State Council

Press Release

6 January 2020

The lawyer with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights filed suit before the Administrative Court against the interior minister and the director of the Travel and Immigration Department, both in their official capacity. The suit is seeking an expedited stay on the passive decision of the Interior Ministry’s Travel and Immigration Department to refuse to permit Ahmed Harqan to travel abroad, thereby exercising his right to freedom of movement. The suit also seeks to overturn the decision and compel the administrative body to pay all litigation costs. The appeal was entered as no. 16832/74JY.

Ahmed Harqan defines himself on his website as “an Egyptian rights activist, atheist, blogger, and writer.” He is a well-known blogger who writes and makes videos critiquing religion, advocating freedom of belief, and combatting religious discrimination. Harqan told EIPR researchers that the Cairo airport authorities have stopped him three times—in December 2016, June 2019, and October 2019; in all cases  National Security officers detained him at the airport until after his plane departed, after which he was released. No legal grounds were given for denying him the right to travel.

Harqan said that the first and second times, he was on his way to Beirut to appear on a television program to discuss the conditions of atheists and unreligious Egyptians. National Security officers stopped him and questioned him for hours about the reasons for his travel. He said that they informed him that the security establishment was concerned about his activities and media appearances. After his plane took off, Harqan was released.

On the third occasion in October 2019, Harqan was traveling to Tunisia for personal reasons—to marry a Tunisian woman. He said he was detained in the National Security office at the airport and interrogated more than once over several hours. OneNational Security officer treated him poorly, Harqan said, insulting him in a demeaning manner.

Harqan said that the third time he was stopped, officers told him that he was banned from travel by order of National Security because of his activities and media appearances. He was informed that he should go to his local National Security office to resolve the problem. Harqan said that he did go to the office three times, but they refused to meet him; the third time, they told him not to come back.

On 30 October 2019, Harqan declared a hunger strike, forgoing all food and taking only water and juice, to protest the travel ban. On the seventh day of the strike, he was taken to the hospital. Harqan said that aNational Security office visited him in the hospital and ordered him transferred to the Raml 2 police station in Alexandria, where he was questioned and detained for one day. A report was filed (no. 10372/2019) after which he was released. He continued his hunger strike until 25 December 2019. Several bloggers launched a solidarity campaign with him on social media, using the hashtag #solidarity_with_Ahmed_Harqan.