We are saddened and concerned by the news last Sunday that Egyptian human rights activist Alaa Abd El Fattah was arrested at his probation cell in Dokki Police Station. Alaa’s mother, Leila Souief, was reported to have been prevented from entering the station to pick him up. Police reportedly told Ms. Souief that her son had been taken for state security prosecution. It is still not clear what he is being charged with.
Access Now urges the Egyptian authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally.
Alaa Abd El Fatta’s arrest comes months after he was released from prison on probation after serving a five-year sentence for “organizing without a permit a public demonstration” that entailed criticizing the military trial of civilians who were engaged in the revolution. Following the end of his sentence on March 29, 2019, the terms of his probation required him to turn himself in to the Dokki Police Station every night, and to stay at the jail from 6:00 pm to 6:00 am. These excessive and harmful conditions have become commonplace for political prisoners in Egypt since 2013.
The arrest also takes place in the context of a full-scale crackdown on those involved in the September 20th anti-Sisi protest, sparked when businessman and actor Mohamed Ali urged Egyptians to protest through a series of videos posted on social media platforms. The videos accuse the Sisi regime of corruption and use of public funds for family and personal projects, in the face of rising poverty in Egypt. More than 2,200 people have since been detained, including prominent activists, journalists, university professors, and lawyers.
“This terrifying new wave of arrests is no surprise when you look at the legislation that has been approved and implemented over the past few years. These laws and policies fail to align with international human rights standards, and now they pose a threat to people who are protesting and attempting to speak freely under the Sisi regime,” said Emna Sayadi, Access Now’s MENA campaigner. “The world needs to stand together and send a clear message: this crackdown on peaceful demonstrations and free expression cannot be tolerated, and Egypt must protect the human rights of those speaking out, online and off.”
The arrests are accompanied by increasing state censorship. In the last four years, Egyptian authorities have blocked hundreds of websites, ranging from media and news sites to the websites of human rights organizations to tools to circumvent internet censorship. The government also has the authority to impose heavy fines on those operating websites deemed to be a threat, without obtaining a court order.
In addition to Alaa Abd El Fatta’s immediate and unconditional release, Access Now further demands a fair trial for all those unjustly detained, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a signatory. We continue to advocate for reform of the laws and policies that put human rights at risk in Egypt.
For more information, see:
There is always light: Manal Bahey Al-Din Hassan on digital rights in Egypt
Shutdowns, surveillance, and censorship: UPR reviews highlight threats to digital rights
Would your internet activity put you at risk of going to jail in Egypt?