Paris-Geneva, June 25, 2021 – On the second anniversary of Zyad al-Elaimy’s arbitrary detention, the FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) call for his immediate and unconditional release and urge the authorities to put an immediate end to all acts of harassment against human rights defenders in Egypt.
Two years ago, on June 25, 2019, Zyad al-Elaimy was part of a widespread arbitrary arrest campaign that began in late June 2019 and targeted activists coordinating an opposition alliance to participate in the parliamentary elections. On the night of his arrest, seven other political opposition figures were also arrested. He is currently accused in three distinct cases, namely case 930/2019 (“Amal Case”); case 684/2020, where he was sentenced to one year in prison on March 10, 2020; and case 571/2020 (also called “terrorist entities” case) . As of today, Mr. al-Elaimy has spent 731 days in pretrial detention in Tora prison, which corresponds to the legal limit according to Egyptian law.
Zyad al-Elaimy is a human rights lawyer, former member of Parliament (2011-2013) and a founding member of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party. He was a renowned figure of the 2011 uprising, initiating the January 25 Revolution Youth Coalition and delivering speeches in Tahrir square to mobilise Egyptians to stand up for democracy and against injustice. Through his work as a lawyer, he has represented activists, politicians and trade unionists.
Mr. al-Elaimy was arrested by a dozen plain-clothes national security agents after leaving a friend’s house in Cairo’s Maadi district at dawn, on June 25, 2019. He was detained incommunicado for 14 days. After his arrest, the Ministry of Interior issued a statement accusing him and other people of a plan “to carry out violent and disorderly acts against State institutions simultaneously with creating a state of revolutionary momentum,” financed by the Muslim Brotherhood. The allegations against him are that of “engaging with a terrorist group to help achieve its goals”. However, the Ministry has not provided any evidence to substantiate these allegations. On August 4, 2019, the Cairo Criminal Court accepted a request submitted by the public prosecutor to seize the funds of the defendants in this case.
On March 10, 2020, Zyad was sentenced to one year in prison and a fine of 20,000 Egyptian pounds (around 1045 Euros) for “spreading false news and statements” (Article 171/3 and 188 of the Penal Code) in a second case related to a TV interview he gave to BBC Arabic in 2017, in which he had commented the human rights situation in Egypt. According to the Egyptian Penal Code, the period that Zyad served under this case counts towards time served for his pretrial detention in the Amal case.
In an arbitrary ruling on April 16, 2020, the Cairo Criminal Court decided to put Zyad al-Elaimy on the terrorists list, along with human rights defender Ramy Shaath, prompting widespread condemnation among civil society and international policymakers. The decision was not communicated to Mr. al-Elaimy's family or lawyer until April 18, 2020. On that matter, UN experts denounced the misuse of the terrorist law, urging the Egyptian authorities to remove them from the list. The ruling also revoked his membership in the Egyptian Bar Association, placed him on a travel ban list, and prevented him from participating in public life, even after a possible release. The decision was appealed, and a final judgement by the Court of Cassation is expected on July 14, 2021.
On June 23, 2021, Mr. al-Elaimy was summoned and appeared before the State Security prosecutor in the Amal Case. The prosecution confronted Zyad al-Elaimy for almost four hours with some of his posts on Facebook in which he expressed his peaceful opinions. This was the first real interrogation of Zyad in relation to this case since June 2019. On his last hearing of June 7, 2021, the judge renewed his pretrial detention for 45 days, which, as mentioned above, is illegal as it goes beyond the limit of 731 days in pretrial detention. His next hearing in Amal Case is scheduled on June 29, 2021.
In the meantime, Mr. al-Elaimy is held in Tora prison, in a small cell of 4,8m2, with limited and insufficient access to ventilation, light and exercise. He is allowed to get out of his cell only for one hour every day, without the right to interact with other inmates. The FIDH and OMCT recall that Zyad al-Elaimy is asthmatic and suffers from high blood pressure and has a rare autoimmune disease. His prolonged detention in poor conditions constitutes a high risk to his health in the current Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr. al-Elaimy’s detention is aimed at preventing him from carrying his legitimate political and human rights activities and is part of a widespread and prolonged campaign to silence independent Egyptian civil society actors. Authorities have increasingly employed repressive tactics such as renewed and prolonged pretrial detention, enforced disappearance, torture, and judicial harassment to silence all critical voices, including through unfounded investigations for terrorism and national security-related charges. In a public statement released on January 2021, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders urged the immediate release of all human rights defenders and called for an end to the misuse of anti-terrorism and national security laws and prolonged pretrial detention to criminalise the work of civil society actors in Egypt.
The FIDH and OMCT express solidarity with Zyad al-Elaimy and recommend:
- Authorities in Egypt to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. al-Elaimy, and end ongoing attacks and harassment, including at the judicial level, against all human rights defenders in the country.
- United Nations Special Procedures mandate holders, including the Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights Defenders, Counter-terrorism, Freedom of Expression and other relevant mandates, in line with the basic violations of due process in this case and the immediate threat prolonged detention and a lack of sufficient medical care poses to Mr. al-Elaimy’s health, to publicly call on the authorities to immediately release Mr. al-Elaimy in line with the Egyptian government’s international legal obligations
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