We, the undersigned organizations strongly condemn the defamationcampaign by the Egyptian authorities against human rights defender MohamedSoltan, following the recent advocacy work of the organisation he leads, TheFreedom Initiative, in Washington D.C.
These attacks are part of an intimidation campaign against humanrights groups and defenders targeted because they have been shedding light onthe serious human rights violations in Egypt. Many of these groups have beenforced to work outside of Egypt due to the brutal crackdown on civil societyand independent nongovernment organizations. We call on the Egyptian governmentto halt all reprisals and persecution of human rights defenders and independentorganizations inside and outside of Egypt.
Mohamed Soltan is a prominent human rights defender from The FreedomInitiative, an independent human rights advocacy group in Washington D.C. Hespent nearly two years in prison in the case known as “Raba’ Operations Room,”in which authorities pressed politically-motivated charges in 2014-2015 againstscores of critical journalists and political figures for “membership in anillegal group”, “publishing false news” and “planning to overthrow the rulingregime”, among other charges. Some of the charges do not constituterecognizable crimes under international law. In any case, the US StateDepartment, and Human Rights Watch’sanalysis of the casefile in April 2015, found that prosecutors failed topresent any credible evidence to establish him as a suspect, let aloneestablishing Soltan’s individual criminal responsibility for the alleged crimes. An Egyptian courtsentenced him to life in prison in 2015.
In protest of his unjust detention by the Egyptian authorities,Soltan entered into an open-ended hunger strike and was supported by aworldwide campaign effort. The U.S. government intervened at the highest levelsand successfully facilitated his release and return to the United States on May30th, 2015. Since his release, Soltan has become a full-time human rightadvocate relentlessly defending democratic values and human rights.
The Freedom Initiative has worked diligently with Egyptian andinternational human rights organizations to shed light on the deterioratinghuman rights situation in Egypt. The organization’s annual flagship event, theEgypt Advocacy Day, involved two award-winning actors who joined over 100Egyptians and Egyptian Americans from over 25 U.S. states and six countries formeetings with members of the U.S. Congress and State Department. The aim of themeetings was to engage the Egyptian diaspora in the U.S. with their electedrepresentatives on human rights and democratic governance issues in Egypt
In response, the Egyptian authorities have apparently unleashed asystematic defamation campaignagainst some of those who participated in the meetings and against theorganizers, particularly the award-winning actors, The Freedom Initiative andSoltan. The Egyptian government, aswell as privately owned newspapers, falsely accused him of being a convictedterrorist, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and working on behalf of foreignagents. The defamatory statements were reported on government-sponsored mediaoutlets in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
The coordinated harassment of Soltan is part of a broader repressionof rights and freedoms in Egypt and is aimed to stigmatize human rights defenders,both nationally and abroad, and undermine the effectiveness of their work.
We stand in solidarity with Mohamed Soltan, The Freedom Initiativeand all Egyptians who peacefully speak out against human rights abuses despitethe hefty price. We urge the Egyptian government to respect its obligationsunder international human rights treaties and the Egyptian constitution, endthe crackdown on critics, halt the persecution of human rights defenders andrelease all those detained for peacefully expressing their opinions.
Adalah Center for Rights andFreedoms
Andalus Institute for Tolerance andAnti-Violence Studies
CairoInstitute for Human Rights Studies
Committee for Justice
EgyptianHuman Rights Forum
Egyptian Front for Human Rights
The Freedom Initiative
World Organisation Against Torture(OMCT), under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders