Detention of Amal Fathy is state retribution for exercising the right to free speech

The undersigned human rights organizations condemn arrest of Amal Fathy on May 11th and call for her immediate release. Egyptian state security forces arrested Fathy, a member of the April 6th movement, and raided her home after she posted a video on Face book critical of the government’s role in failing to prevent sexual harassment in Egypt. Yesterday May 13, Fathy was referred to the High State Security Prosecution for questioning in Case no. 621 of 2018, a case based primarily on the recent presidential election. Fathy’s arrest is yet another attempt by the Egyptian state to intimidate activists and persons of conscience by threatening imprisonment under fabricated allegations; the case will likely remain open as a way of lashing out against any attempt at free expression, especially on social media.

At 2.30 in the morning on Friday May 11th, security forces comprised of seven specialized security personnel and two masked men raided the home of Fathy and her husband Mohamed Lofty, the director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF). After searching and ransacking the home, security forces arrested her. Lotfy, along with the couple’s three-year-old son, accompanied her to the Maadi police station. As lawyers and supporters gathered at the station, the police initially denied they were holding Fathy. After an hours-long interrogation in connection to Case no. 799 of 2018, the Maadi District Prosecutor decided to hold Fathy for 15 days on charges of abusing social media, and posting a Face book video to incite the overthrow of the regime and spread false rumors.

On Sunday morning, May 13th, Fathy’s lawyers were stunned to learn she had been transferred to the State Security Prosecution and was being interrogated in connection with a different case, Case no. 631 of 2018, on new charges based primarily on the Homeland Security investigations during the recent presidential election. Fathy, among others, is accused of intentionally undermining the election and inflaming public opinion.

In this regard, the undersigned organizations contend that it was the Egyptian state and its security forces that undermined the presidential election through their flagrant intimidation and imprisonment of all serious candidates, until finally, the state handpicked a fervent Sisi supporter to stand in as the lone candidate running against Sisi. Further compounding the absurdity of the so-called electoral process were attempts by the state to mobilize voters through either enticement (including payment for voting) or through intimidation, including fines for nonparticipation. International and local media were also threatened to prevent any divergence from the official state narrative when reporting on the elections. Jailing activists on trumped-up charges of undermining the presidential election is no less absurd than the farce of the election itself.

The genuine intention behind Fathy’s arrest was likely retaliatory in nature – against Fathy for her own oppositional political activity, especially her activism in the April 6th movement, and also potentially against her husband Mohamed Lotfy for his role at the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms. The ECRF – along with other organizations – documents violations committed by Egypt’s security forces, primarily torture in prisons and enforced disappearance. According to a statement by the organization, this is the seventh time the ECRF has been subjected to intimidation and retaliation by the Egyptian state security apparatus. It is unlikely mere coincidence that the raid on Lotfy’s home and his wife’s arrest comes just one week before a visit by the Italian technical team to review video footage in connection with the 2016 torture and killing of Italian researcher Giulio Regeni. The legal advisor for the Regeni family heads the ECRF’s board of trustees.

The undersigned organizations demand the immediate release of Amal Fathy and the dropping of all charges against her in both cases. We also demand the release of other detainees in connection with Case no. 621 of 2018 – Mohammed Ibrahim, Sherif al-Roubi and Shadi Abu Zayd – and all charges against them dropped.

The state’s campaign of intimidation and reprisals to suppress any criticism – direct or satirical – of the current situation in Egypt will only lead to further resentment and discontent. The undersigned organizations affirm that these repressive practices will not stultify the wave of rage that is swelling against the daily assaults on the fundamental rights of Egyptian citizens. Furthermore, this repression will only serve to tarnish the current government’s image before the international community, as well as reinforce the resolve of all who advocate for the freedom of expression in Egypt.

Signatory Organizations

  1. The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  2. Nadeem Center
  3. Andalus Center for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies (AITAS)
  4. Egyptian Front for Rights and Freedoms
  5. Committee for Justice  
  6. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)