In this third quarterly bulletin of the Justice for Human Rights Defenders project in 2023, the Committee for Justice documented violations against human rights defenders (HRDs) in Egypt during the period from July to September 2023.
The violations included arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, poor detention conditions, denial of healthcare, and unfair trials.
CFJ documented at least 13 cases of arbitrary detention of human rights defenders in the third quarter of 2023.
These violations include the continuation of prolonged pretrial detention, which exceeds the legally mandated two-year period, as in the case of human rights defender Ibrahim Abdel-Moneim Metwally, who has been detained for 6 years. It also includes human rights activist and translator Marwa Arafa, who entered her third year of pretrial detention Qasim Mahrous Abdel-Kafi, who has been in pretrial detention for over 4 years in connection with the case known as the “Hope Alliance.”
The report also highlights the cases of Al Sayed Saeed Khalaf, detained since January 2021 in connection with case number 238 of 2021 Supreme State Security, and Abd Rab Al-Nabi Abdullah, detained in connection with case number 2175/2021 Supreme State Security. Additionally, Ahmed Abu Zeid Al-Tanoubi, who is still in pretrial detention in connection with case number 1530/2019 Supreme State Security.
On July 15, Egyptian security forces arrested the human rights activist, Israa El-Roubi , who then experienced enforced disappearance for 4 days at an undisclosed location before appearing before the Supreme State Security Prosecution on July 19.
She was being investigated in case number 2976/2022 Supreme State Security on charges of fundraising and financing members of banned terrorist groups. This case, known in the media as the “Matabkhna Group” case, involved several women in addition to Esraa. They were involved in purchasing and preparing food for detainees in political cases and sending it to them. The group was subsequently tracked, arrested, and accused of “fundraising for prohibited terrorist elements and groups”. The prosecution decided to detain Esraa pending the investigation and transferred her to the Tenth of Ramadan Prison.
Additionally, on September 5, labor activist and founder of the Teachers’ Independence Movement and the Egyptian National Labor Union Mohamed Abdel-Karim Zahran, was arrested shortly after participating in the national dialogue as an official spokesperson for the teachers. Zahran remained subjected to enforced disappearance until he appeared before the Supreme State Security Prosecution on September 13, which interrogated him in case number 2123/2023 on charges of belonging to a “provocative group” and spreading false news. He was detained for 15 days and transferred to the Tenth of Ramadan Prison. However, on September 16, he was suddenly ordered released in connection with the case.
Poor Detention Conditions:
Detained journalist Hala Fahmy went on a hunger strike inside her cell at the Tenth of Ramadan Prison to protest against being subjected to beatings and assaults by fellow inmates in the prison. She also protested the prison administration’s failure to address her complaints. During a detention hearing session before the advisory chamber in case number 441/2022 Supreme State Security, Hala complained that she was suffering from physical attacks, verbal abuse, and death threats from the senior prisoners, a privilege granted to older inmates. She also mentioned that the prison administration refused to file a report to document her complaint and the extremely poor conditions of detention, which prompted her to go on a hunger strike.
From the Tenth of Ramadan Prison, the prison administration also extended its arbitrary action by permanently banning visits for the human rights lawyer Hoda Abdel Moneim. She was initially allowed a visit on August 27 for the first time after being transferred to the prison. However, her daughter announced on September 12 that they were once again denied visitation rights after waiting for more than 10 hours, with only food being allowed to be delivered.
Denial of Healthcare:
The Egyptian labor leader, Mohamed Hashem Farghali, is suffering from a lack of the necessary healthcare, despite his continuous pretrial detention by the Cairo Criminal Court. He has been detained since January 2023 in connection with case number 148/2023 Supreme State Security, facing charges of belonging to a terrorist group and spreading false news. Farghali is currently dealing with heart issues and high blood pressure, and before his arrest, he was preparing for an eye surgery that he has not been able to undergo so far.
On July 18, the Emergency State Security Court issued a final verdict sentencing the social researcher Patrick George Zaki to 3 years in prison in case number 1086/2021 Emergency State Security misdemeanors, based on a published opinion article from 2019.
Immediately after the verdict was announced, Patrick, who had been previously released, was arrested at the court premises and transferred to the Dakahlia Security Directorate, with the intention of transferring him to Gamasa Prison. This action was in violation of the Public Prosecution’s periodic circular number 10/2017 regarding the execution of verdicts issued by Emergency State Security Courts. The circular stipulates the release of individuals pending trial if they have already been released, awaiting confirmation of their sentence if it entails imprisonment.
The verdict sparked strong reactions on social media, especially amidst the ongoing national dialogue sessions, leading some participants to announce the suspension of their participation. Additionally, the Italian authorities, where Patrick had pursued his master’s degree, expressed their disapproval. This eventually led to a presidential decree issued by President Sisi granting amnesty to a group of individuals who had received sentences, including Patrick, as well as the human rights lawyer Mohamed Al-Baqer, who had been detained since September 2019.
In less than a month, the proceedings of the fast-track trial of the politician and former president of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, Hisham Kassem, were completed. He was accused of insulting and defaming a member of the Presidential Pardon Committee, Kamal Abu Aita, and members of the Sayeda Zeinab Police Department. The trial’s initial sessions took place on September 2, and he was sentenced by the First Chamber of the Economic Court on September 16. He was sentenced to 6 months in prison with labor, a fine of 20,000 Egyptian pounds in case number 2021/2023 Financial Misdemeanors. During the trial, he announced a hunger strike in protest of his trial and suspended the hunger strike a few days before the verdict to avoid any suspicion of influencing the court’s decisions.