Egypt: Arrests raise fears of fresh crackdown against peaceful critics  

The arbitrary detention of labour rights lawyer, Haytham Mohamdeen, and former political activist, Mostafa Maher, this week has raised fears that the Egyptian authorities might be embarking on a fresh crackdown targeting peaceful dissent or individuals with history of activism, said Amnesty International.

“These latest arrests have reignited a climate of fear amongst independent activists and human rights organizations about a renewed assault by the Egyptian authorities on the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International. 

“The Egyptian authorities have an appalling record of arbitrarily detaining peaceful activists over unfounded charges for months and sometimes for years, without ever referring them to trial, before releasing them under harsh probation measures. Instead of stepping up their repression with a fresh round of arbitrary detentions, the authorities should stop harassing peaceful critics and ensure all those detained solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association or assembly are immediately and unconditionally released.”

Instead of stepping up their repression with a fresh round of arbitrary detentions, the authorities should stop harassing peaceful critics and ensure all those detained solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association or assembly are immediately and unconditionally released
Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director Amnesty International

Amnesty International is calling on the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mostafa Maher and Haytham Mohamdeen as their detention is arbitrary, and the charge against them is overly vague and has no credible basis. They appear to have been targeted solely because of their history of peaceful activism. The authorities also violated their fair trial rights during arrest, detention and questioning. 

Background 

On 13 May, Haytham Mohamdeen was summoned to Saf police station, in Giza governate, south of Cairo, after being wrongfully accused of violating his probation terms. When he went to the police station, the police arrested him and held him without access to his lawyer or family until 16 May. Haytham Mohamdeen had been under probation since his release on 30 October 2018 from five months of arbitrary  detention over trumped up charges of inciting peaceful protests against austerity measures.

On 14 May, plainclothes police forces went to Mostafa Maher’s house in Qatameya, Cairo and arrested him, without showing an arrest warrant. The authorities kept him in incommunicado detention until 16 May.

On 16 May, prosecutors from the Supreme State Security Prosecution ordered the detention of both men for 15 days on the charge of “aiding a terrorist group in achieving its goals”. They were not able to meet with their lawyers ahead of the interrogation and Haytham was interrogated without a lawyer.