FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Washington, D.C.) – In response to news [Ar] that the Egyptian government has detained 11 Egyptian citizens on spurious charges, the Project on Middle East Democracy issued the following statement:
The Egyptian government has once again disingenuously invoked terrorism to justify a series of arbitrary arrests against peaceful political opponents, labor activists, and journalists, who were simply seeking to exercise their rights to free speech, assembly, and association as guaranteed by Egypt’s constitution and by international standards. By continuing its harsh crackdown on political opponents and civil society, the Egyptian government is not only running roughshod over the Egyptian people’s rights, but also creating the conditions for the very type of instability it claims it is trying to prevent. We call on the government to immediately and unconditionally release the 11 Egyptian citizens currently detained and ensure that those who require medical treatment receive timely and adequate care.
On Tuesday, June 25, 2019, the Ministry of Interior released a statement announcing the arrest of eight individuals it claims were involved in a plot called “the Plan for Hope,” which allegedly aimed to “target” state institutions “with the goal of bringing about their collapse to coincide with the celebrations commemorating the June 30th revolution.” Since that time, Egyptian authorities have added at least three additional suspects to the case (No. 930 of 2019) and the Supreme State Security Prosecution has issued detention orders for ten of them for 15 days pending further investigation. According to press reports [Ar], the prosecution has subsequently charged many of the accused with “aiding a terrorist organization” and “intentionally disseminating false news,” less serious charges than those outlined in the initial Ministry of Interior statement. State and regime-controlled media have led what appears to be an organized smear campaign against the 11 individuals arrested, characterizing [Ar] them as members or affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood preparing a sophisticated plot. At the same time as these arrests, a request [Ar] to strip the immunity of MP Ahmed Tantawi, a member of the independent 25-30 Alliance parliamentary bloc and a rare vocal critic [Ar] of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, was sent to the public prosecutor, which could lead to another arrest and a further silencing of peaceful opposition for exercising their rights.
Contrary to the Egyptian government’s account, several of those arrested were reportedly working on forming a political alliance to compete in the upcoming 2020 parliamentary elections, a completely legal activity protected under Egypt’s 2014 constitution. Others were neither affiliated with this endeavor nor connected to each other. While the government claims those arrested are part of a Muslim Brotherhood plot, many not only have no connection to the Brotherhood, but are consistent, outspoken critics of the Islamist movement. Even more concerning, some of those arrested under Case 930/2019 were extrajudicially disappeared weeks ago and are only being charged now.
Those arrested include Zyad el-Elaimy, a former member of parliament for the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and founder of the Revolutionary Youth Coalition; Hisham Fouad, a journalist, trade union activist and member of the Revolutionary Socialists; Hossam Mu’nis, another journalist and former spokesperson for the Egyptian Popular Current and campaign manager for Hamdeen Sabahi’s 2014 presidential candidacy; Hassan Barbari, director of the Egyptian Labor Relations Forum; and Ahmed Tammem, a labor rights activist. This case comes just over a year after a separate round of similar arrests were carried out against pro-democracy activists, journalists, and opposition figures in Case 621/2018, many of whom remain in prison today and are still awaiting trial.
“It was already clear that al-Sisi’s government does not tolerate dissent, including peaceful, constitutionally protected activities,” said POMED Executive Director Stephen McInerney. “The latest arrests demonstrate that the regime will not stop as long as independent Egyptian voices remain in the country. Unfortunately, the arrest of activists under the guise of fighting terrorism will do nothing to advance Egypt’s security or stability, while simultaneously distracting the government from real security threats and eliminating any space for peaceful political activity.”