Egypt: rights lawyer joins detainee hunger strike

Egypt's rights lawyer and former presidential candidate Khaled Ali on Sept. 18 joined an ongoing hunger strike by dozens of Egyptians to demand the release of those said to be unjustly detained by authorities in an attempt to curtail political dissent. Ali, whose Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights brought a case demanding repeal of the controversial protest law under which dozens of youth activists have been detained, said he would be fasting for two days in solidarity with those being held. Over 80 detainees are on hunger strike in Egypt's prisons. The controversial statute, issued late last year, bans protest without prior police authorisation and gives security forces the right to bar any public gathering of more than 10 people. Some 200 others outside prisons, including families of the detainees, activists and journalists, have organised a hunger strike in solidarity.

Among the hunger-striking prisoners are Ahmed Douma, a well-known youth activist associated with the 2011 revolution, who activists and lawyers say is at risk after 21 days without food. Two supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi—Mohamed Soltan, on strike for over 230 days, and Ibrahim El-Yamani, striking for over five months—are also said to be in critical health. One of Egypt's most prominent activists, Alaa Abdel Fattah, was released on bail Sept. 15 after almost a month on hunger strike ahead of his retrial on charges of breaching the protest law. (Ahram Online, Sept. 18)

  1. Egypt: court suspends activist’s jail sentence

    An Egyptian High court on Sept. 21 suspended Egyptian activist and human rights lawyer Mahienour El-Masry's six-month prison term. El-Masry has been detained for violating Egypt's protest law since May and in June had her sentence reduced from two years to six months with a fine of LE50,000 ($7,000). El-Masry was found guilty of violating Egypt's protest law after being arrested for protesting during the Khaled Said murder retrial in December. During the protest El-Masry and eight other protesters allegedly organized an unauthorized protest, blocked off the road, assaulted a police officer and destroyed a police vehicle. While imprisoned, El-Masry has been leading a hunger strike, which has attracted attention from fellow prisoners and activists outside of jail. A pro-rights group created the "Free Mahienour" campaign to urge El-Masry's release. El-Masry is expected to be released from prison soon. (Jurist, Sept. 21)

    A court sentenced two police officers to 10 years for the killing of Khaled Said, whose death in custody helped galvanise the uprising against Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The two officers were initially convicted and sentenced to seven years, but a retrial was ordered. (BBC News, March 3)

  2. Egypt jails Muslim Brotherhood leaders over lawyer’s torture

    An Egyptian court on Oct. 11 jailed eight men, including two Muslim Brotherhood leaders, for 15 years over the torture of a lawyer during the 2011 uprising. The defendants were convicted of torturing, electrocuting and sexually assaulting a lawyer after locking him up for three days near Cairo's Tahrir Square when it was filled with protesters. Muslim Brotherhood leaders Mohamed al-Beltagy and Safwat Hegazy, Al Jazeera journalist Ahmed Mansour, and one other defendant were sentenced to 15 years, while four other defendants were imprisoned for three years. Beltagy and Hegazy are being tried in several other cases with other Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including ousted Islamist president Mohamed Mors. (Jurist, PTI, Oct. 11)

  3. Egypt releases Al Jazeera journalist detained since 2016

    Egyptian authorities Feb. 6 released a journalist working for Al Jazeera television network who had been held in pre-trial detention for more than four years. Mahmoud Hussein, a video editor, was arrested in 2016 over accusations of attempting to overthrow the country’s government and being a member of the banned political party, the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt’s Ministry of Interior accused him of “disseminating false news and receiving monetary funds from foreign authorities to defame the state’s reputation,” but no charges were ever formally brought against him. Hussein and Al Jazeera consistently denied the allegations. (Jurist)