Egypt releases Bedouin rights activist

Amnesty International has welcomed the release of an Egyptian Bedouin blogger and activist, who was held in detention without trial for almost three years over protests against the demolition of thousands of homes in the Sinai Peninsula.Musaad Suliman Hassan Hussein, also known by his pen name Musaad Abu Fagr, was released from Abu Zaabal Prison, near Cairo, on Tuesday. He had been held under emergency laws despite repeated court rulings ordering his release.”Musaad Abu Fagr’s release is welcome news but the Egyptian authorities must now release all other prisoners of conscience, with many still languishing in administrative detention solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme of Amnesty International.Musaad Abu Fagr was arrested on 26 December 2007 following demonstrations led by Wedna Na’ish (We Want to Live) a Bedouin rights movement he co-founded.He was accused of “inciting others to protest”, “resisting the authorities” and “assaulting public officers during the exercise of their duties”.During the 2007 demonstrations, several thousand protesters clashed violently with the security forces in the village of al-Masoura, between the north Sinai towns of Rafah and al-Arish near the border with the Gaza Strip.The demonstrators were also demanding permits to build houses, ownership of the farmland they worked and the release of Bedouin who had been detained without charge or trial after bomb attacks in Taba, Sharm al-Sheikh and Dahab between 2004 and 2006.In July, one teenage demonstrator died from gunshot wounds and dozens of others were injured.Following his arrest in December 2007, Musaad Abu Fagr was held at Borg al-Arab Prison near Alexandria.On 15 February 2008, following an appeal by Musaad Abu Fagr’s lawyers against him being remanded in custody to await trial, the Ismailia Appeals Court ordered his release.However, using its powers under the state of emergency that has been in force in Egypt since 1981, the Ministry of Interior issued an administrative order to detain him further.His lawyers lodged a complaint with the Supreme (Emergency) State Security Court, which ordered his release.The Ministry of Interior appealed and, on 12 May 2008, another court confirmed the release order. However, Musaad Abu Fagr was issued with another administrative detention order. In total, Musaad Abu Fagr’s lawyers obtained 18 court orders for his release but each time, Musaad Abu Fagr was served with another administrative detention order.”It is regrettable that it took the authorities chose to ignore the numerous court decisions ordering the release of Musaad Abu Fagr for so long,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.As a result of unsanitary conditions, Musaad Abu Fagr developed an abscess on his foot in Borg al-Arab Prison, where he was held for a year.The prison authorities provided no medical treatment but a fellow inmate, a doctor, performed the surgery without anaesthetic.Musaad Abu Fagr recovered thanks to his family and lawyer, who brought him medication to prevent infection.Musaad Abu Fagr has thanked Amnesty International for its campaigning for his release, “Amnesty International’s support is one of the reasons that I was released,” he told the organization, “your messages gave me a sense of solidarity”.