Alert: New guide on best practices to protect detained children from torture
Egypt
21.10.21
Urgent Interventions

Egypt: Mohamed El-Baqer, Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed Ibrahim referred to trial

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

New information
EGY 004 / 0919 / OBS 075.5
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
Egypt
October 21, 2021

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Egypt.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed about the ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mohamed El-Baqer, human rights lawyer and Director of Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms, Alaa Abdel Fattah, a blogger and a member of the “No to Military Trials for Civilians” movement[1] as well as Mohamed Ibrahim, aka Mohamed Oxygen, a prominent blogger who reported on politics and human rights issues in Egypt before his arbitrary detentions in 2018 and 2019.

On October 18, 2021, Mohamed El-Baqer, Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed Ibrahim were referred to trial before the Misdemeanours Emergency State Security Court in Cairo. The three human rights defenders were charged with “spreading false news undermining national security” in a new case -Criminal Case 1228 of 2021- in relation to several messages posted in 2019 on their social media accounts denouncing human rights violations in Egypt. Their lawyers were not informed about the decision to refer them to trial and were hence prevented from presenting their defence. Moreover, the prosecutor only allowed the lawyers to read the case file but denied them access to an official copy of the documents. The trial was postponed to November 1, 2021. At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, Mohamed El-Baqer, Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed Ibrahim remained detained at maximum security Tora prison, notorious for its cruel and inhuman conditions, such as lack of clean water, poor ventilation, and overcrowding.

According to Mohamed El-Baqer, Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed Ibrahim’s lawyers, Criminal Case 1228 of 2021 would be identical to Criminal Case 1356 of 2019, for which the three human rights defenders have been held in pre-trial detention for over two years, the maximum legal period of pre-trial detention under Egypt’s Criminal Procedure Code. In this regard, bringing new charges against them under a new criminal case is framed within a series of strategies systematically used by the Egyptian authorities to extend the pre-trial detention of human rights defenders once they have reached the maximum detention limit for a case.

The Observatory recalls that Alaa Abdel Fattah was arrested on September 29, 2019, in his probation cell at the Dokki police station, where he was spending his daily 12 hours under police monitoring[2]. His lawyer and Director of Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms, Mohamed El-Baqer was arrested later that day at the State Security Prosecution premises while he was attending an investigation session with his client Mr. Abdel Fattah.

The two human rights defenders were subsequently accused under Criminal Case 1356 of 2019 by State Security Prosecution under vague and unfounded charges of “belonging to a terrorist group”, “funding a terrorist group”, “spreading false news undermining national security” and “using social media to commit publishing offenses” and remanded in preventive detention in Tora High Security prison 2, which is known for its very poor conditions of detention.

On November 19, 2020 the Cairo Criminal Court arbitrarily added Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed El-Baqer, along with 27 other activists, to Egypt’s “terrorist list” for a period of five years. The Court also added the two of them to a new case, State Security Case 1781/2019, for which exact charges are still unknown. The ruling includes restrictions such as a travel ban and a freeze on assets for three years.

Since their arrest, Mohamed El-Baqer and Alaa Abdel Fattah’s right to due process has been continuously violated through countless and unjustified renewals of their preventive detention by both the Supreme State Security Prosecution and Cairo Criminal Court. Both of them have also been subjected to threats and acts of ill-treatment while in detention. While in prison both have been denied access to books, time in the prison yard, access to a radio, warm clothes during the winter, a mattress, and fresh air within their cells. On September 13, 2021, the pretrial detention of Alaa Abdel Fattah was renewed for 45 days. The defender, who did not appear during this hearing, was later able to meet with a judge and his lawyer, to whom he expressed his distress and suicidal thoughts.

Mohamed Ibrahim was arbitrarily detained on September 21, 2019 while complying with his precautionary measures at Al-Basateen Police Station, in Giza, under Criminal Case 621 of 2019, for which he had been detained from April 6, 2018 to July 31, 2019. On October 8, 2019, he appeared before the State Security Prosecution in Cairo. He was charged under Criminal Case 1356 of 2019 and ordered a 15-day pre-trial detention period. On November 3, 2020 the Giza Criminal Court ordered the release of Mohamed Ibrahim with precautionary measures. However, the decision was not implemented and on November 10, 2020 the Supreme State Security Prosecution charged him with “joining a terrorist group” under Criminal Case 855 of 2020. In July 2021, after almost two years of pre-trial detention and without access to his family and lawyers, Mohamed Ibrahim attempted suicide while in prison.

The Observatory expresses its utmost concern over the ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mohamed El-Baqer, Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed Ibrahim. The Observatory recalls that Egyptian authorities have increasingly employed repressive tactics such as prolonged pre-trial detention, recycling cases against dissidents, enforced disappearance, torture, and judicial harassment to silence all critical voices, including through unfounded investigations for national security and counter-terrorism related charges.

The Observatory condemns the ongoing arbitrary detention of Mohamed El-Baqer, Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed Ibrahim, which seems to be only aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities, and calls on the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release them and to guarantee their physical integrity and psychological well-being.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Egypt, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Mohamed El-Baqer, Alaa Abdel Fattah, Mohamed Ibrahim, as well as that of all human rights defenders in Egypt;

ii. Release Mohamed El-Baqer, Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed Ibrahim immediately and unconditionally as their detention is arbitrary since it only seems to aim at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mohamed El-Baqer, Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed Ibrahim, as well as of all human rights defenders in Egypt and ensure that they are able to carry out their activities without hindrance.

Addresses:

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Egypt in your respective country.

***

Paris-Geneva, October 21, 2021

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

  • E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
  • Tel FIDH: +33 1 43 55 18 80
  • Tel OMCT: +41 22 809 49 29

[1] This movement was set up in 2011 and denounced human rights abuses committed in particular by security forces and the army during the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) after the fall of former President Mubarak.

[2] On March 29, 2019 Mr. Alaa Abdel Fattah was released under probation from Cairo’s Tora prison, at the term of his five-year sentence. As part of his probation, he was required to spend every night at the Dokki police station.

Sign up now

Subscribe to our latest news & alerts