PUBLIC AI Index: MDE 12/57/98
UA 304/98 Human rights defender / Prisoner of
conscience 2 December 1998
EGYPTHafez Abu Sa’ada, Secretary General of the Egyptian Organization for Human
Hafez Abu Sa’ada, a lawyer and leading human rights defender, was arrested
because of his human rights work on 1 December 1998 and ordered by the courts
to be detained for 15 days.
Amnesty International believes this is a move by the authorities to hamper
the work of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), of which Hafez
Abu Sa’ada is Secretary General. This would also prevent him attending a Human
Rights Defenders’ Conference in Paris next week in celebration of the 50th
anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
As Hafez Abu Sa’ada has been arrested because of his human rights work Amnesty
International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience. He is currently
detained at Istiqbal Tora Prison, south of Cairo. If tried and convicted he
could face between seven and fifteen years imprisonment with hard labour.
Hafez Abu Sa’ada was arrested after he appeared as a witness in a court- hearing
about EOHR financing. He is accused of "accepting funds from a foreign country
with the aim of fulfilling acts that would harm Egypt, receiving donations
without obtaining permission from the competent authorities [and of]
disseminating false information abroad that would harm the country’s national
interests". Amnesty International believes his arrest is a result of recent
high-profile campaigns by the EOHR.
In August and September this year the EOHR published two reports. The first,
about deaths in custody in Egyptian prisons, resulted in Hafez Abu Sa’ada being
The second concerned at least 20 torture cases of Coptic Christians in the
village of al-Kushh, Upper Egypt, during an investigation by the security forces
into the murder of two Coptic Christians in August. In its report, EOHR
denounced the random arrests and torture. EOHR also emphasised the increasing
use of torture by the security forces in criminal cases against both Muslims
In October an English newspaper published a highly emotive and factually
questionable article concerning the events in al-Kushh village, resulting in
a public outcry in Egypt. This culminated in an article by the weekly Egyptian
newspaper, al-Usbu’, accusing EOHR of treason and linking a donation of $25,000
by the British Embassy to EOHR, to the article in the English newspaper.
Human rights organizations in Egypt have received funds from foreign
institutions and governments for many years. The Egyptian authorities are
aware of such funding arrangements and no organization has so far been prosecuted
for receiving funds from abroad.
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