Egypt: Latest arrest campaign seeks to eliminate emerging coalition in coming parliamentary elections

In Egypt /Road Map Program, Statements and Position Papers by CIHRS

The undersigned rights organizations demand the immediate, unconditional release of all persons detained in the dawn security raids of June 25 and 26, in which at least eight were arrested including politicians, journalists, human rights defenders, and businessmen. The arrests aim to stifle an emerging civil, secular coalition of political parties, movements, independent political figures, and youth seeking to form an alliance to run in next year’s parliamentary election; and are yet another manifestation of the Egyptian state’s relentless efforts to eliminate all peaceful outlets for free expression and association, including legally and constitutionally sanctioned political participation allowing for the rotation of power through free and fair competitive elections.

Those arrested were Zyad El-Eleaimy, former parliamentarian and leader in the Egyptian Social Democratic Party; journalist Hossam Mo’anes, campaign coordinator for former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi; journalist and activist Hisham Fouad; labor activist Ahmed Tammam; writer and economist Omar el-Shenety; labor rights activist Hassan al-Barbary; and businessmen Osama al-Aqbawi and Mustafa Abdel Moez.

Barbary was the first arrested at dawn Monday in his home, followed by the Tuesday raid ending with all eight charged under Case no. 930 of 2019 with aiming to overthrow the government and inflame civil strife by spreading false news, and colluding with the Muslim Brotherhood; several were charged with funding and providing material support to the Brotherhood. All those arrested were detained for 15 days pending investigation.

The arrest and prosecution of the eight men is symptomatic of the Egyptian state’s proclivity for fabricating cases against persons deemed a political threat, of diverse political leanings and backgrounds, under the spurious charge of attempting to “bring down the state.” The undersigned further condemn the Interior Ministry statement issued Tuesday morning, which accused the arrested persons—prior to their arraignment—of forming a political-economic coalition as a part of a hostile plan, in tandem with the Muslim Brotherhood, to target and overthrow the state. Such maligning of peaceful political participation and civic reform efforts with accusations of association or cooperation with the Brotherhood, a state-designated terrorist group, is typical of the ministry, and yet again exposes the Egyptian government’s modus operandi of misrepresenting a case targeting free association and expression as one targeting terrorism.

The Egyptian state’s dominant narrative – its brazenly false equivalence of all forms and orientations of political opposition with terrorism – is eroding the credibility of its counterterrorism efforts locally and internationally. Treating journalists, politicians, and party leaders as if they are terrorists who kill innocent citizens serves to reveal that the state’s genuine objective is not combatting terrorism, but combatting and eliminating all forms of peaceful, lawful political opposition, including clearly-needed oppositional representation in the parliament.

By paralyzing political movements and intimidating parliamentarians, the arrest campaign targeting political parties and their leadership functions to maintain the unfree and unfair climate upon which the government of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi depends. It is not the first of its kind. In the run-up to the referendum on the constitutional amendments last April, several mid-level party leaders[1] were arrested in the government’s campaign to ensure the amendments’ passage by eliminating all potential opposition. Such state contempt for the justice system, and the consequent erosion of its credibility and independence, would not be possible without the dereliction, and indeed complicity, of the Public Prosecution, especially the High State Security Prosecution.

The undersigned rights organizations categorically condemn this vicious state security arrest campaign against peaceful and lawful political opposition and reiterate our demand for the immediate, unconditional release of all persons arrested as part of it. We hold the Interior Ministry responsible for the health and physical safety of the detainees.

Signatory Organizations

  1. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  2. Committee for Justice
  3. Freedom Initiative
  4. Arab Center for Legal and Social Research
  5. Nadeem Center
  6. Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms
  7. Egyptian Commission on Rights and Freedoms
  8. Egyptian Human Rights Forum
  9. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
  10. Egyptian Front for Human Rights
  11. Belady Center for Rights and Freedoms
  12. Arabic Network for Human Rights Information

[1] Including from the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Dustour Party, the National Movement, Strong Egypt, and the Bread and Freedom Party (under establishment).

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