Translated and Edited by: Committee for Justice
Geneva: November 6, 2022
The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, expresses her happiness that the Egyptian authorities have acquitted the father of the Egyptian human rights defender, Abdel Rahman Ayyash, of the accusation of joining a terrorist group, which had previously been directed against him because of his son’s human rights work.
I am very pleased to hear that the father of Abdelrahman Ayyash (@3yyash), an Egyptian human rights defender in exile, has been cleared of the charge of joining a terrorist group, allegedly made in connection to his son’s work on human rights in #Egypt,” Lawlor said in a tweet.
I am very pleased to hear that the father of Abdelrahman Ayyash (@3yyash), an Egyptian human rights defender in exile, has been cleared of the charge of joining a terrorist group, allegedly made in connection to his son’s work on human rights in 🇪🇬#Egypt. @PMEgypt_Geneva
— Mary Lawlor UN Special Rapporteur HRDs (@MaryLawlorhrds) November 4, 2022
The UN Special Rapporteur had previously expressed deep concern about the alleged intimidation and reprisal against the family of Egyptian human rights defender, Abdel Rahman Mahmoud, also known as Abdel Rahman Ayyash, due to his work on the human rights situation in Egypt.
Lawlor explained in a memo sent to the Egyptian authorities on August 4, 2022, which has not yet been answered, that Ayyash is a human rights researcher at the Freedom Initiative, a US-based NGO that covers human rights abuses in Egypt; he is a fellow at the Century Foundation, a New York-based think tank, where he focuses on political Islam.
Raids, arrests and trumped-up charges:
The memo said that on July 2, 2022, Ayyash published a series of tweets analyzing the structure of the Muslim Brotherhood, and they were retweeted several times.
The memo added that on July 4, 2022, at approximately 3 am, four officers from the National Security Agency raided the home of the Ayyash family, in the city of Mansoura, and asked about his whereabouts, and confiscated his father’s mobile phone and arrested him, then he was transferred to the National Security headquarters and detained for 20 hours, then he was transferred to Mansoura Police Station and held for another 12 hours. His family had no information about his whereabouts for 32 hours.
Lawlor added that on July 5, 2022, Ayyash’s father appeared before the Public Prosecution in the presence of his lawyer, and was charged with joining a terrorist group in Case No. 6778/2022, and was detained for 15 days pending investigation. On July 6, 2022, his family visited him in prison for a few minutes, handed him medicine and clothes. He was reportedly held in a crowded, poorly ventilated cell. He suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure and herniated discs, and his family fears the conditions of detention will worsen his health.
The Special Rapporteur also noted that this was not the first time that Ayyash’s father faced security threats in relation to his son’s work abroad. In 2021, his home was raided by security forces and they asked him about his son’s work in the US.
Also in 2009 and 2011, security agents interrogated Ayyash’s father about his son’s activity in the anti-government protests at that time.
Reprisals for human rights activity:
Lawlor expressed her deep concern about intimidation and harassment that may constitute reprisals against human rights defender Ayyash, including intimidation, interrogation and arrests of his family members, which appear to be directly related to his legitimate work as a human rights defender and his activities with non-governmental international organizations..
UN demands from the Egyptian authorities:
The memorandum asked the Egyptian authorities to provide any additional information on the legal bases on which Ayyash’s father was detained.
It also called on Egypt to clarify how the alleged acts committed in retaliation in relation to Ayyash’s human rights work comply with Egypt’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to protect and respect the rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression.
The memorandum also requested the authorities in Egypt to indicate the measures that have been taken to ensure that human rights defenders can work in an enabling environment and carry out their legitimate activities without fear of harassment, stigmatization, criminalization of any kind or reprisal for their cooperation with international NGOs and think tanks.