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Egypt: Freedom House Calls for the Release of Political Prisoners, Including Hazem Ghonim
In response to the detention of peaceful protesters and opposition voices across Egypt, and the unrelated imprisonment of Hazem Ghonim, the brother of Egyptian activist Wael Ghonim, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“Egyptian authorities should release Hazem Ghonim and all those wrongfully detained without delay and drop all charges against them,” said Annie Boyajian, director of advocacy at Freedom House. “It is clear that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Egyptian authorities are retaliating against Wael Ghonim for his criticism of the government by targeting his family. Additionally, the imprisonment of peaceful protesters and human rights defenders following recent demonstrations is a violation of Egypt’s commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Egypt’s allies and friends, including the United States, should make clear to President Sisi that such intolerance of dissent undermines the legal rights of Egypt’s citizens and the stability and security of their country.”
Since new protests against President Sisi’s rule began on September 20, 2019, nearly 2,000 people have been arrested. Egyptian security forces have set up numerous barricades and security checkpoints, particularly around Tahrir Square, the symbolic center of the 2011 revolution. The police are reportedly stopping people at random and searching the contents of their phones, and journalists have been detained. Sisi, who took power in a 2013 military coup, has cracked down on dissent during his rule by restricting civil society activity; weakening judicial independence; and targeting opponents with arrest, prosecution, and travel restrictions. Tens of thousands of Egyptians have been arrested during Sisi’s tenure.
In an unrelated incident, Egyptian authorities detained Hazem Ghonim, the brother of Egyptian activist Wael Ghonim, on September 19, 2019 after a raid on his family’s home, during which passports and cellphones were confiscated. Wael Ghonim’s Facebook page helped spark the 2011 prodemocracy uprising that overthrew former president Hosni Mubarak. Wael, who lives in exile in the US, claims his recent criticism of Sisi prompted authorities to detain his brother, who he describes as apolitical.
Other recent prominent arrests include:
- Human rights lawyers Mahienour al-Masry and Mohamed El-Baqer
- Academics Hassan Nafea and Hazem Hosni
- Egyptian blogger and human rights defender Alaa Abd El Fattah
- Human rights defender Abdelrahman Tarek of the Al-Nedal Centre for Rights and Freedoms, who was reportedly tortured in detention
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.