The one who did not drink from the river of madness… Raed Salama, the economist seeking justice, fighting discrimination and sectarianism who is accused of terrorism

In a long corridor in Cairo Criminal Court, economic expert Dr. Raed Salama walks handcuffed alongside a policeman trotting while Dr. Raed tries with difficulty to look back. It seems that what he needs to say to his lawyers is urgent: “Tell my wife that I am very proud of her, tell her that I said I love you”. Those were Raed’s words to his lawyer Mohamed Abdul Aziz during an investigation session. His heart beats with two loves, one for his wife and another for his country, both of which are the only support in the surrounding madness and solitary cold cell in Torah investigation prison, in which he remains detained for 51 days.

Raed was spending Al Adha feast with his wife in their house in the 6th of October city. On the 23rd of August, they were surprised by security forces storming the house, detaining Salama and leading him to an unknown location. Salama, a member of the supreme committee and political bureau of al-Karama party, an economic researcher and always a strong advocate of the rights of Egyptians to a dignified life, fighting against sectarianism and religious discrimination is now accused of “achieving the aims of a terrorist group” as part of a security campaign that lead to the arrest of former ambassador Maassoum Marzouq, Dr. Yahya al-Qazzaz, activist Nermin Hussein and Sameh Seoudi, who are accused in case No. 1305 State Security, publicly known as “Eid Detainees”.

Standing up against discrimination, accused of terrorism

Anyone who knows Raed knows that his tools are research, writing, literature, and poetry, not terrorism, violence or incitement, as Dr. Ziad Bahaa al-Din, the former Deputy Prime Minister, describes him. However, this did not stop the prosecution from accusing him, and his companions, of participating with a terrorist group in promoting its objectives, receiving funds to support terrorism, taking part in a criminal agreement to commit a terrorist act and overthrow the ruling regime, even though Salama is the head of “Egyptians Against Religious Discrimination Association”, with a long record of striving against discrimination.
For 15 days, the economic expert in his fifties, author of “The IMF – a political perspective for an economic question”, was imprisoned in a solitary confinement dark cell of 2m x 3m, deprived of his basic human rights such as having access to a toilet or a small shaft for ventilation and fresh air.
His lawyer Mohamed Abdul Aziz complained to 4 governmental bodies in order to improve Salama’s detention conditions and to allow his family to visit him and to be able to bring him clothes and medication.

On September 6, Abdul Aziz said that he submitted a complaint to the National Council for Human Rights concerning the arrest and detention conditions of Dr. Raed Salama, that carried no. 2066. The council considered the complaint about the condition of Salama and those detained with him, and communicated with Public Prosecutor and the Minister of Interior with 4 new communiques calling for improving his situation and that of those detained pending the case, improving the prison conditions, and demanding his release.
Abdul Aziz was not alone, as the Democratic Civil Movement sent similar complains to the Public Prosecutor along with blogging campaigns on facebook and twitter in solidarity with Raed and his companions.

On September 8, Salama was able at last to breathe normally and go to the toilet, as he was transferred to a better cell in terms of cleanliness and ventilation.
On the same day, his family was able to visit him for the first time since he got arrested on 23 August in Torah Investigation Prison, they brought with them some clothes and medicine, which had a positive impact on his moral, yet according to his lawyer, he is still forbidden from the daily walk outside the cell.

The one who did not drink from the river of madness

Amidst this stormy sea of madness, Salama did not drink from the river of madness, he never abandoned his calm smile, even when he received the criminal court’s decision, on September 17, to freeze his assets on the charge of participating with a terrorist group, the very group he dedicated his life to opposing its thoughts. Overnight, the freedom of belief advocate is accused of being a terrorist, yet he is still clinging to his beliefs.

Anti-Sectarianism and Pro-Justice

“Raed Salama… a fighter against Sectarianism”
Under this title, the Board of Trustees of Egyptians Against Religious Discrimination Association said that they knew Salama for years, they knew his dedication to volunteer work, his integrity, his credibility in defending citizenship and his fervent opposition to any form of religious discrimination.
For that, in its statement on Facebook, the Board of Trustees did not find “any reason or credibility to these accusations against its president, concerning taking part with a terrorist group to achieve its aims and receiving funds for such a target”.
From battling against discrimination to battling for economic justice, Salam never lost his temper except when he feels that his country is endangered by reactionary policies. In November 2016, after floating the currency, the economic expert rejected the decision considering the IMF program a danger which leads to a budget deficit.
Working as the President of Managing Dangers and Monitoring Sector in an Egyptian bank, Salama is able to decode the economic theories and uncover what is behind numbers that non-experts of the general public cannot understand. He is able to simplify such theories and connect them to everyday life, as he did in three episodes of a YouTube program called “A cup of coffee” in 2016.
Despite the governmental statements declaring that there are no alternatives to the IMF loan, Dr. Salama released a study which is a sort of a framework to save the country from the economic crisis in May 2016, 6 months before the floating of the currency.

Changing the Economic Pattern

Salam presented his study during the “Facing Economic and Social Crisis Conference”, which was organized by the democratic stream parties in May 2016 in which he suggested to switch the type of economy from consuming income to productive development.
Changing the shape of the economy, according to the study, demands a legislative revolution in order to put a new legislation for investment without prejudice against labor rights, and a new legislation for quarries and metals and another legislation to curb corruption along with a commission for combating corruption and another for combating discrimination.
Concerning the US dollar crisis, Salama suggested stopping importing certain products which have local alternatives, suspending the holding company and establishing a ministry specialized in factories’ administration to manage the factories returned to the state by judicial rulings.
The study prepared by Salam and a number of economic experts was sent to the presidency and was widely published. Yet, the government insisted on taking a loan from the IMF.

Search for another Accusation

“I knew Dr. Raed since he was a leading member in the Egyptian Democratic Party, he is a renowned Egyptian, faithful to his country..” said Mohamed Abo Al-Ghar, Professor of Gynecology and former head of the Egyptian Democratic Party expressing his sorrow for the detention of his friend.

On his Facebook account, Abo Al-Ghar wrote: We worked together in Egyptians Against Religious Discrimination which he heads, I testify that he was a model in ethics and patriotism

Salama’s detention created a shock among all his friends. Ziad Bahaa al-Din sent a salutary sad message to Raed saying: With all due respect to my dear friend in detention, we agreed sometimes, disagreed other times, life separated us, yet I have never questioned his integrity, patriotism, and keenness to serve his country’s interests… I never questioned his dream for Egypt to be a country of freedom, equality, justice, and law”
On his Facebook account, Bahaa added: Whoever knows Raed, for one day, knows that his tools were always research, writing, poetry and literature, and never resorted to terrorism, violence or inciting. I hope those who are in contact with him send him my regards.

Mary Morad, an economic researcher, expressed her shock for Salama’s detention and his accusation of being a terrorist writing on her Facebook account: It is unbelievable to arrest Raed Salama from his house like that, they’d better find a reasonable accusation and they will never find one, not only because he is a respectable, honorable and patriotic man, but also because he took the responsibility of combating sectarianism, is it reasonable to think that the president of Egyptians Against Religious Discrimination could ever support the Muslim Brotherhood by any means”

With sorrow and agony Mary, member of Samer Soleiman institution said: In pain not only for his detention but also for our helplessness, I know that Samer would have been through this, the pain is the same.