CFJ demands release of activist Alaa Abd El- Fattah and lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer on 1st anniversary of their arrest
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The Committee for Justice (CFJ) said that it rejects the Egyptian authorities’ continued detention of human rights lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer, and human rights activist, Alaa Abd El-Fattah, on the first anniversary of their arrest.
Commenting on the anniversary of their arrest, CFJ Executive Director Ahmed Mefreh said:
“Defending rights is not an easy matter. People may pay their freedom as a price for that. El-Baqer paid his freedom as a price while defending Abd El-Fattah’s freedom, and both of them paid their freedom as a price to demand the freedom of an entire nation, demanding the rights of the Egyptian people who suffer from an iron fist that crushed their dreams, aspirations, and rights.”
Activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah was arrested on 29 September 2019 after leaving a police station where he was serving a five-year probation sentence, while human rights lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer, was arrested on the same day while practicing his profession as a lawyer by attending with Abd El-Fattah, then the two of them were added to Case No. 1356 by the Supreme State Security. They were accused of belonging to a terrorist group – without specifying which group it is – and spreading false news – without explaining the nature of this news.
After the “welcome parade”, during which El-Baqer and Abd El-Fattah were beaten, insulted, blindfolded, and stripped of their clothes, they were held in Tora maximum-security prison, where they are held until today, and are still prohibited from exercising, reading, communication with the outside world, hot water, and a bed or mattress.
El-Baqer is the founder of the Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms, a center founded in 2014 by a group of jurists, lawyers and researchers to support human rights principles by providing legal support, litigation, and documentation in three programs: The Criminal Justice Program, the Right to Education and Student Rights Program, and the Refugee Rights Program.
On 18 February 2020, the Tora Criminal Court ordered the release of El-Baqer, but this decision was cancelled on 20 February after the Public Prosecutor appealed the ruling, and since 5 May 2020, the Cairo Criminal Court renewed his pre-trial detention in absentia. He is still in pre-trial detention.
Abd El-Fattah was arrested in 2006 and 2011 over his activism, and on 28 November 2013, he was arrested on charges of inciting demonstrations against the new constitution in front of the Shura Council. Twenty policemen broke into his house, broke the door, confiscated the family’s computers and mobile phones, and when asked about the warrant for his arrest, the police physically assaulted him and his wife.
On 23 February 2015, an Egyptian court sentenced Abd El-Fattah to five years in prison for demonstrating without a permit. After completing five years, he was released and put under probation: which is to spend 12 hours free, and another 12 hours at a police station every day for another 5 years. However, this was not completed, as he was re-arrested on 29 September 2019, and is still in pre-trial detention.
A group of UN human rights experts, in an urgent appeal to the Egyptian government, had expressed their concern about the continued detention of a group of human rights defenders, including El-Baqer. The group expressed its fear for the detainees’ lives in light of the spread of the coronavirus, while the Egyptian authorities are preventing their contact with the outside world, barring them from communicating with their lawyers, and renewing their imprisonment in absentia, without taking into account Egyptian nor the international law. The experts called on the Egyptian authorities to release the two detainees.
“The UN urgent appeal memorandum is an international cry in the face of the Egyptian authorities, to stop their systematic violation of the international conventions and laws that they have signed, and it is an attempt to save these human rights defenders from the clutches of authorities addicted to violating human rights,” said Mefreh.
CFJ rejects the practices of Egyptian authorities with both the human rights lawyer, Mohamed El-Baqer, and the human rights activist, Alaa Abd El-Fattah, since their arrest until now, and demands upholding their human rights.
We also demand their release in light of news of their deteriorating health. The difficult conditions of detention and the coronavirus crisis endangers their lives during detention, and violates their right to life and health, which are respectively protected by the International Covenant Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which Egypt ratified on January 14, 1982.