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One year on since he was held in pretrial detention: Human rights organizations call for the release of academic Ahmed al-Tohamy

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The undersigned organizations call on the Egyptian authorities to release Ahmed al-Tohamy Abdel-Hay, an assistant professor of political science at the Faculty of Economic Studies and Political Science at Alexandria University, who has been held in pretrial detention for a year in Case No. 649 of 2020.

Police arrested Tohamy from his home on 3 June 2020. He remained under enforced disappearance for 17 days. The prosecution charged him with joining a terrorist group, spreading false news, and misusing social media. The questioning of Tohamy focused on his alleged collaboration with the US-based activist Mohamed Sultan regarding a lawsuit the latter filed in the US against former Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawy (2013-2014). In his lawsuit, Sultan accused Beblawy of being responsible for his torture during his imprisonment in Egypt.

Tohamy denied the allegations, and also denied that he wrote a research paper criticizing Beblawy, as the prosecution claimed during the investigations. Tohamy said the real reason behind these accusations was his academic research papers, especially those related to the Arab Spring, human rights and democracy.

Tohamy suffered from poor detention conditions for seven months, as he was held in a poorly ventilated cell with 30 other inmates. He was denied physical exercise, and his family was banned from visiting him until October 2020. He was also prevented from appearing before the court, which would renew his detention, or meeting his lawyer. His lawyer was denied access to the case papers for nearly seven months.

Tohamy has been working as an assistant professor of political science at the Faculty of Economic Studies and Political Science at Alexandria University since 2014. He is a researcher specializing in comparative politics and international relations. He previously worked as a researcher and then a professor at the National Institute for Social and Criminal Research in Cairo from 2000 until 2014, and as a researcher at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies from 1996 to 2000. In 2019 he was a visiting professor at the Free University of Berlin. Tohamy has published many articles in scientific periodicals.

The academic community in Egypt suffers from severe security restrictions, as the Egyptian authorities impose restrictions on researchers’ travel. A number of academics and researchers are still held in pretrial detention without any evidence for the accusations levelled against them by the State Security Prosecution. Those academics mainly include professor at the Faculty of Urban and Regional Planning at Cairo University Magdy Qarqar, who was arrested from his home in September 2019; master’s researcher at the University of Bologna Patrick George, who was arrested at Cairo Airport upon his return in February 2020; and master’s researcher at the Central European University (CEU) Ahmed Samir Santawy, who was arrested after being summoned to the State Security headquarters in February 2021 while on study leave in Cairo.

The undersigned organizations stress the need for the Public Prosecution to release Tohamy, drop the charges levelled against him, and enable him to resume his academic work. The undersigned organizations also call for the release of all detained academics and guaranteeing academic freedom for all academics, whether they are registered in Egyptian or foreign universities.

The undersigned organizations: 

  1. The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE).
  2. The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
  3. The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF).
  4. El Nadeem Center against Violence and Torture.
  5. The Freedom Initiative.
  6.  Committee for Justice.
  7. Intersection Association for Rights and Freedoms (IARF).
  8. Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN).

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