Human rights organizations condemn arrest of Egyptian activists

Three functionaries of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Gasser Abdel-Razek, Karim Ennarah and Mohammed Basheer, have been arrested over the past week. They have been sent into pre-trial detention

November 21, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
From left, Mohammed Basheer, Karim Ennarah and Gasser Abdel-Razek.

International human rights organizations, politicians and diplomats have condemned the arrest of three activists of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) over the past few days. The executive director of EIPR, Gasser Abdel-Razek, was arrested by Egyptian security agencies from his home in Maadi, Cairo on Thursday, November 19, and taken to an undisclosed location. He was later brought before the Supreme Security Prosecution at 3 am on Friday and sentenced to 15 days in pre-trial detention. He has been accused of serious criminal charges such as joining a terrorist group, publishing false news, undermining public safety and using social media accounts to spread false news

On Wednesday, EIPR’S criminal justice director, Karim Ennarah, was detained while he was on vacation in the resort town of Dahab in the South Sinai region. On Sunday, EIPR’s office manager, Mohammed Basheer, was arrested on charges of “joining a terrorist group”, “funding terrorism”, “undermining public security” and “spreading false news.”  Ennarah was reportedly taken away to an undisclosed location following his arrest at around 2 pm. All three were arrested following a meeting on November 3 between the EIPR and a delegation of western diplomats and ambassadors from Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom to discuss the human rights situation in the country.

Following the meeting, Basheer was questioned by the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) before his subsequent arrest. He was later placed in pre-trial detention for 15 days. Ennarah has also been ordered to pre-trial detention for 15 days.  Before his own arrest, EIPR executive director Abdel Razek, had in a statement, expressed shock that “a security force would feel threatened by a meeting with ambassadors especially since the diplomats were representatives of states with good relationships with Egypt, such as France, the UK and Germany.” He had also pointed out that human rights are a part of the annual review of these countries’ relationships with Egypt, as well as an important part of the EU-Egypt Association Agreement.

The arrests have also been widely condemned by human rights groups and others. Amnesty International termed them “outrageous” and a “chilling escalation of the Egyptian authorities’ crackdown on civil society.” Human Rights Watch and EuroMed Rights, along with several Egyptian human rights groups and civil society organizations, have called for the immediate and unconditional release of both activists. US senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, along with several Western Ambassadors to Egypt, have strongly denounced the arrests.

The human rights situation in Egypt is becoming increasingly grim due to the systematic, brutal crackdown against activists by the government of president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Human rights groups estimate that there are approximately 60,000 Egyptians currently being held in prison for political reasons.