Rights organizations: closure of the public sphere, and confiscation of liberties continue

In Statements and Position Papers by CIHRS

56a34d8bc7e8bThe undersigned organizations condemn the vicious security campaign carried out by the Ministry of Interior in the run-up to the fifth anniversary of the 25 January revolution, which entailed extensive violations of several core constitutional rights, first and foremost the right to safety and personal security, the right to privacy, and the right of peaceful assembly. We further condemn reported clashes between security forces and demonstrators in various places around the country on Monday, January 25, 2016, which resulted in the extrajudicial killing of more than one person and the arrest of others. The undersigned organizations see this as the perpetuation of the traditional repressive security mentality that remains unchanged since the revolution. In fact, it has grown more malevolent due to the lack of accountability and ongoing impunity.

The philosophy underlying the security crackdown was reflected in a statement made by an official with the Egyptian Homeland Security Agency, who told Reuters a few days ago, “We have taken several measures to ensure activists don’t have breathing space and are unable to gather, and several cafes and other meeting places have been closed, while some have been arrested in order to scare the rest.” Security forces carried out broad sweeps in the downtown area, raiding dozens of residential furnished apartments without legal basis and stopping hundreds of passersby on the streets to examine their phones and personal computers. Police also arrested several young people whom they alleged were planning to organize protests on the revolution’s fifth anniversary or had established a movement, known as the January 25 Movement, in violation of the law.

On January 14, security forces raided the home of Dr. Taher Mokhtar, a member of the Doctors Syndicate, arresting Mokhtar along with Ahmed Mohammed Hassan, a law student at Beni Soueif University, and Hossam al-Din Hamad, an engineering student and programmer, after they conducted an illegal search of the premises. Security forces confiscated their personal laptops and telephones and some of their papers, including a statement from the Right to Health campaign on detention facilities, without showing a search warrant from the prosecution or giving grounds for the raid and arrest. The prosecution charged them with possession of flyers advocating the overthrow of the system of governance, pursuant to investigations by Homeland Security on January 13 that found that the three men were agitating for demonstrations and exploiting the individual conduct of some Interior Ministry officers to incite citizens to protest on January 25. The prosecution remanded them for four days pending investigation into police report 498/2016/Abdeen misdemeanors. Remand was renewed on January 17 for an additional 15 days.

Security forces also arrested Ahmed al-Masri and journalist Moheb Doss, members of the Tamarrod movement, on charges of inciting to demonstrations on January 25. The forces detained Doss in front of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Abbasiya on Christmas Eve, January 6, and took him to the Weili police station. His family did not know where he was detained until dawn Friday, January 8, after he had been questioned by the Homeland Security High Prosecution in the Fifth Settlement, without a lawyer, in connection with case 796/2015. The prosecution ordered him remanded for 15 days pending investigation, and remand was renewed for an additional 15 days on January 19. Security forces also searched his home on Thursday, January 7, confiscating his personal computer, without providing any information to his family about his whereabouts or the reason for the search. Ahmed al-Masri was arrested on the same night while at the Police Mosque. The following day his family learned that he had been taken to the Gamaliya police station and questioned without an attorney by the chief Homeland Security prosecutor, who ordered him remanded for 15 days pending investigation; remand was renewed for an additional 15 days on January 19.

The same charge—inciting to demonstrations on January 25—was cited to arrest Mahmoud al-Saqqa, a fourth-year student in the Faculty of Agriculture and an editor at the January 25 website, at 3 am on Thursday, December 31 while he was leaving his place of work in Mohandiseen. Security forces took him to the Doqqi police station blindfolded and from there to a Homeland Security facility in Sixth of October. He appeared on Saturday afternoon, January 2, 2016, at the Homeland Security Prosecution in the Fifth Settlement bearing traces of assault. Al-Saqqa said during questioning that he was beaten and given electroshocks at the police station and the Homeland Security facility. He is currently detained at the Giza Prison at the Kilometer 10.5 complex, after his remand was renewed on January 11 in case 796/2015, in connection with his alleged affiliation to a group established in violation of the law, the January 25 Youth Movement. His detention has prevented him from sitting for his midterm university exams.

Security forces on December 29 arrested another group of activists—Sherif Mahmoud Mohammed Ramadan (known as Sherif Diab), Khaled Ahmed Taher, Sayyed Fathallah, and Mohammed Fayyad—for their involvement with the same movement. Security forces raided the homes of Taher and Fathallah and arrested them, while they arrested Fayyad and Diab at their workplaces. The four activists were questioned on Wednesday, December 30, by the Homeland Security Prosecution in the Fifth Settlement, which ordered them remanded for 15 days pending investigation; remand was renewed for an additional 15 days on January 21. After questioning at the Homeland Security Prosecution, Fathallah was moved to the Zawiya al-Hamra police station, Taher was taken to the Boulaq al-Dakrour station, Fayyad to the New Cairo station, and Diab to the Toukh District Prison and from there to the Benha General Prison. There he was forced to remove his clothing and was beaten, and the prison administration denied him access to food or covering. In the remand renewal hearing on Monday, January 11, lawyer Khaled Ali petitioned to have him moved to Tora Prison, which he was. He also filed a complaint against the chief of the Benha police station regarding the violations against Diab, as well as his unjustified solitary confinement.

On December 28, security forces arrested another four activists: Mohammed Nabil, Ayman Abd al-Megid, and Sherif al-Roubi (all members of April 6), as well as Mahmoud Hisham, who was previously detained in connection with the Ittahadiya case; the four were arrested at approximately 1:30 am. Ten men in civilian clothes who said they were with Homeland Security raided the home of Ayman Abd al-Megid. After a search, they confiscated his personal computer and mobile phone and took him to the Nuzha police station and then to the Doqqi station. At the same time, security forces raided the home Mohammed Nabil, a member of April 6. After a search, they arrested him. Mahmoud Hisham’s home was raided as well on the same day and he was taken to the Khalifa police station and from there to the Doqqi prosecution office. Security forces also arrested Sherif Ali Mohammed, known as Sherif al-Roubi, from a coffee shop in downtown, claiming that an arrest order had been issued for him. The four activists were brought before the Doqqi prosecution, which remanded them to custody for 15 days pending investigation in case 20065/2015/Doqqi misdemeanor. The hearing for a renewal of remand, scheduled for January 24, was postponed because the defendants could not be brought out of detention due to security concerns; it will be held on January 30. The prosecution charged them with joining a banned group and inciting to demonstrations, after they took part in a demonstration in Doqqi Square on December 12. The arrest order also cited two additional names of people who were not arrested: Mohammed Sami al-Bayoumi and Islam Mohammed Abd al-Hamid Mohammed Orabi. The prosecution charged them in absentia with participation in an unlicensed demonstration and possession of incendiary materials (fireworks).

Ahmed Douma, Mohammed Adel, and Ahmed Maher (the latter two members of April 6), all imprisoned in connection with events at the Shura Council, were shocked to be sentenced in absentia to an additional six months in prison, although their whereabouts—prison—are well known. They were charged with assaulting a police officer while in the lock-up at the Police Academy during their trial for the Shura Council events. The new sentence will make Adel and Maher non-eligible for automatic pardon under the law, which provides for the pardon of prisoners who have received no additional sentences in jail after serving 75 percent of their original sentence.

To prevent any youth assembly commemorating the January 25 revolution, security directives were issued to cancel a concert by Elawela Balady at the Amir Taz palace and the Midan stage at the Opera House, scheduled for January 24, according to a statement from the band. This is in addition to repressive measures taken over the last four months against several Egyptian cultural institutions, which included raids, destruction of property, and the closure of some facilities. The institutions affected include the Townhouse Gallery, Rawabet Theater, Merit Publishers, Zero Productions, and the Contemporary Image Collective. Dozens of arbitrary prosecutions are also underway targeting various political and rights activists.

On January 14, poet Omar Hadheq was prohibited from traveling to the Netherlands to receive a freedom of expression prize due to security concerns, although he was informed of no official decrees to this effect. Hadheq was covered by the presidential pardon issued in September 2015, having been sentenced to two years in prison for breaking the protest law. The same day, security forces arrested Said Shehata, a worker at Arab Spinning and Weaving (Bolivar) at his home. The Homeland Security Prosecution in Alexandria charged him with demonstrating in the Abu Youssef area of al-Agami before transferring him to the Raml 2 police station and from there to the Dekheila Prosecution.

The security harassment targeted not only political activists, but extended to opposition voices within media institutions and civil society organizations. On January 14, a force with the Artistic Works Investigations raided the office of the Masr al-Arabiya news website. After searching computers and videotaping the offices, eight computers were seized and stories being prepared for publication on the website were recorded on the grounds that they harmed national security. The administrative director of the site, Ahmed Mohammed Abd al-Gawad, was taken to the Doqqi police station, which released him the following day. Journalist Ismail Alexandrani was again questioned on Wednesday, January 27, on charges of belonging to a terrorist group, propagating the ideas of the group, and disseminating false news, according to Homeland Security investigations in case 569/2015. Alexandrani was arrested on November 30 at the Hurghada airport upon his return from Berlin. He has been detained since then in connection with the case.

The undersigned organizations note that continued security practices to shut down the public sphere constitute a fundamental threat to the political stability and security of the Egyptian state. State institutions’ respect for the constitution, law, and rights and liberties is not a luxury—it is the only guarantee of progress and stability.

Signatory organizations

  1. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  2. Alhaqanya Center for Law and Legal profession
  3. The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights
  4. El-Nadeem Centre for the rehabilitation of victims of violence and torture
  5. Hesham Mobarak Law Center
  6. Egyptian Commission for rights and freedoms
  7. The Arab Foundation for Democracy Studies and Human Rights “Justice”
  8. Arab Foundation for Civil and Political Rights
  9. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
  10. National group for human rights and law
  11. Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance
  12. Habi Center for Environmental Rights
  13. The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
  14. The Land Center for Human Rights
  15. Masryoon Against Religious Discrimination

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