Artists, writers and human rights groups urge Egypt to release Sanaa Seif

Sanaa Seif has been held in pre-trial detention since June for protesting the illegal detention of her brother, activist Alaa Abdel Fattah. She was abducted from outside the prosecutor general’s office where she had gone to file a complaint

August 06, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
A mural of Sanaa Seif in Rome, painted by Ammar Abo Bakr in 2015 (MEE/Giovanni Piazzese)

More than 200 eminent personalities and human rights activists have called upon the government of Egypt to immediately release film editor and writer Sanaa Seif. The political and civil rights activist has been in pre-trial detention since June. She was abducted from outside the prosecutor general’s office in Cairo where she had gone to file a complaint on June 23.

Prominent signatories to the open letter asking for Seif’s release include Juliette Binoche, Noam Chomsky, JM Coetzee, Naomi Klein and Arundhati Roy. The letter has also been endorsed by international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, PEN international, Human Rights Watch, and Reprieve. Film organizations that have signed the letter include institutes such as Sundance Institute, International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, the European Film Academy and Société des Réalisateurs de Films.

The letter also urges the Egyptian authorities to release other activists, journalists, lawyers, writers and artists who are languishing in prisons and detention centers for exercising their right to protest peacefully against the government. The statement demands that the Egyptian government of Abdel Fatah al-Sisi immediately end the arbitrary, illegal and abusive practice of pre-trial detention that is being used systematically to mistreat and torture thousands of detainees and prisoners.

On the day of her abduction and arrest, Sanaa Seif was at the prosecutor general’s office to file a complaint against the attack on her mother, aunt, sister and herself outside the Tora prison. The four of them had been camping outside the prison, demanding the release of Sanaa’s brother, well-known Egyptian activist, Alaa Abdel Fattah. In March, Sanaa Seif ‘s mother, Laila, her sister, Mona, and her aunt, the author Ahdaf Souief, were arrested while staging a protest demanding that Egyptian authorities take steps to prevent COVID-19 infections in prisons. They were released following an international outcry.

Alaa Abdel Fattah, a prominent face of the 2011 uprising against long time ruler Hosni Mubarak, was jailed in 2013 on charges of protesting without permission from the authorities for which he was sentenced to five years in prison. He was released in March 2019 on the condition that he spend every night in the cell of his local police station. He was rearrested and has been in prison without trial since September 2019. On February 19, 2020 a court ordered his release but subsequently reversed its order the next day and extended his detention.