On Thursday 29 September 2022 it will be three years since Egyptian human rights lawyer Mohamed el-Baqer and British-Egyptian writer and pro-democracy activist Alaa Abdel Fattah were arrested by Egyptian authorities. As a global coalition of civil society organizations and individuals, we come together on the anniversary of their arrest to call on the Egyptian authorities to immediately drop all charges, drop all cases involving them and immediately release el-Baqer and Abdel Fattah. In addition, the coalition urges the British authorities to demand consular access and to intervene to secure the release and deportation of their citizen Alaa Abdel Fattah to the UK as his health has deteriorated and he is believed to be in a critical and life-threatening condition has been on hunger strike for more than 180 days.
Alaa Abdel Fattah is a software developer, prominent author and democracy activist. He was one of the leading voices and activists during the January 25, 2011 revolution. His writing has been published by numerous outlets; he is known for founding a prominent Arabic blog aggregator; and he has been involved in a number of citizen journalism initiatives. Abdel Fattah has been arrested under every Egyptian head of state who has led the country during his lifetime. His book, You haven’t been defeated yet, an anthology of some of his deeply influential writings, has received widespread acclaim.
Mohamed el-Baqer is a human rights lawyer and the founder and director of the Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms. He has a long history of defending those whose rights have been violated, including religious and ethnic minorities, and providing free legal assistance to those accused of exercising their right to peaceful freedom of assembly and expression. Both Abdel Fattah and el-Baqer have been recognized around the world for their contributions to human rights and the rule of law. It was recently announced that Abdel Fattah will be honored with the Electronic Frontier Foundation Award 2022 and el-Baqer with the UIA/LexisNexis Rule of Law Award.
Terrible prison conditions and branded terrorists
On September 29, 2019, Alaa Abdel Fattah was arrested while serving his parole terms at El-Dokki Police Station. He was interrogated before the Supreme State Security Prosecutor’s Office (SSSP) for joining an illegal organization, receiving foreign funds, spreading false news and abusing social media; He was subsequently remanded in custody in Case No. 1356 of 2019. On the same day, Mohamed el-Baqer was similarly arrested while attending Abdel Fattah’s interrogation in his capacity as his lawyer, interrogated before the SSSP and sentenced to pre-trial detention on the same case and the same arbitrary charges. They were both transferred to Tora Maximum Security Prison 2 and ill-treated upon arrival. Once in prison, they were subjected to inhuman prison conditions; denied outdoor recovery time or even sunlight; and denied access to books, newspapers, a radio, a clock and a mirror. In May 2022, after two and a half years of detention in these conditions, Abdel Fattah was transferred to the Wadi al-Natroun prison complex; El-Baqer remains in Tora Maximum Security Prison 2. Both have suffered a serious deterioration in their physical and mental health as a result of the prison conditions.
Since their arrest, Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed el-Baqer have been placed on the country’s terrorist list in connection with another case for which they were never interrogated or given the right to a defense (Case No. 1781 of 2019). As a result of this classification, they are threatened with a travel ban, the freezing of their assets and, for el-Baqer, a possible ban from practicing law. On August 31, 2020, el-Baqer was interrogated before the SSSP and his name was added to a third case: Case #855 of 2020. Then, in October 2021, lawyers learned that Abdel Fattah, el-Baqer and blogger Mohamed Ibrahim (commonly known as Mohamed Oxygen) would be referred to the Emergency State Security Court (ESSC) in another case. The misdemeanor charge from Case #1356 of 2019 was simply copied into this new case, which is listed as Case #1228 of 2021/Emergency State Security. Notwithstanding the lifting of the state of emergency by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in October 2021, on December 20, 2021 and following an unfair trial without due due process in which defense lawyers were denied the right to present a defense on behalf of their clients and Abdel Fattah was denied permission to copy the case files, and el-Baqer and Oxygen were sentenced to five years in prison and four years in prison on charges of publishing false news. The time they spent in pre-trial detention during the main proceedings (Case No. 1356 of 2019) does not count as time against imprisonment and the sentence, which cannot be appealed in court, has since been ratified as cases require is brought before the ESC.
In April 2022, Alaa Abdel Fattah’s family announced that he had been granted British citizenship but had been – and will be – denied the right to consular visits. In the same month, Abdel Fattah went on a hunger strike to protest the Egyptian authorities’ refusal to investigate complaints he and his family had made about violations in detention since his arrest in September 2019, and to demand that Egyptian Officials are allowing consular visits and access to his family’s lawyers in the UK “so that they can take any legal action possible, not only in relation to the injuries he was subjected to, but also any crimes against humanity he committed during.” witnessed his imprisonment”. Abdel Fattah remains on hunger strike; his family grew up serious and timely concerns about his health, especially as the Egyptian authorities refuse to recognize his hunger strike.
As Egypt prepares to host the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 27) in Sharm el-Sheikh in November, it is of utmost importance that the Egyptian authorities release Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed el-Baqer. The country cannot pretend to be a leader on the international stage through forums like COP 27 without also opening up civil society space, a demand made by Egyptian civil society organizations and hundreds of allies around the world. The continued arbitrary detention of so many people, including Abdel Fattah and el-Baqer, suggests that Egypt is not serious about making meaningful progress on human rights and sends an alarming message at odds with the polished image it portrays tries to mediate, contradicts.
We, the undersigned, reiterate our call to the Egyptian authorities for the immediate release of Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed el-Baqer, as well as their co-defendant Mohamed Oxygen, who was also imprisoned for three years earlier this month. We urge the British authorities to intervene immediately to save Abdel Fattah’s life as his health is deteriorating at an alarming rate. And we call on the international community to add their voices in support of calls for the release of Abdel Fattah, el-Baqer and all those who are being unjustly and arbitrarily held in Egypt.
Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE)
Bridge That Gap Initiative
COP26 Coalition Cambridge
Climate sense Africa
Committee on Justice (CFJ)
The Committee for the Protection of Journalists
Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)
Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR)
Egyptian Human Rights Forum (EHRF)
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)
Egypt for human rights
Electronic Frontier Foundation
El Nadeem Center
FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), within the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
house of freedom
The Freedom Initiative
Friends of the Earth Scotland
HuMENA for human rights and civic engagement
International Judicial Commission (ICJ)
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
MENA rights group
NEW HOPE FOR THE POOR
Pakistan Fishermen Forum
Project on Democracy in the Middle East (POMED)
Rain Drops Community Foundation
Platform for Refugees in Egypt (RFE)
Reporters Without Borders
Robert F Kennedy Human Rights
Sierra Leone School Green Clubs (SLSGC)
Sinai Foundation for Human Rights
The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP)
UIA-IROL (Institute for the Rule of Law of the International Association of Lawyers)
Hub for women human rights defenders
World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), within the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Maggie Chapman MSP
Ramy Shaath, Egyptian-Palestinian human rights defender
Solafa Magdy, Egyptian journalist and human rights defender