A Misdemeanours Emergency State Security Court in Egypt today sentenced researcher and master’s student Ahmed Samir Santawy to four years in prison after convicting him of publishing “false news”, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director, Philip Luther said:
“It is outrageous that Ahmed Samir Santawy was sentenced to four years behind bars following a flawed conviction on entirely spurious grounds by a special state security court. His conviction is based solely on social media posts criticizing human rights violations in Egyptian prisons and the state’s mishandling of the pandemic, which he has, in any case, denied writing.
His conviction is based solely on social media posts criticizing human rights violations in Egyptian prisons and the state’s mishandling of the pandemic, which he has, in any case, denied writingPhilip Luther, Amnesty International
“Regardless of the author of the posts, criminalizing the dissemination of information based on vague concepts such as ‘false news’ is contrary to the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the Egyptian constitution and international human rights law.
“Verdicts by Emergency State Security Courts cannot be appealed and must be authorized by the president. We therefore call on the Egyptian president to quash Ahmed Samir Santawy’s unjust conviction. He must be released immediately and unconditionally.”
National Security Agency (NSA) agents arbitrarily arrested Ahmed Samir Santawy on 1 February 2021 shortly after his arrival from Vienna where he was studying. They subjected him to enforced disappearance for five days. During that time, they beat and questioned him about his academic work on women’s sexual and reproductive rights. On 6 February, he appeared in front of the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP), where he was interrogated over terrorism-related accusations, on the basis of secret NSA investigations that neither Ahmed Samir Santawy nor his lawyers have been allowed to examine. The SSSP has been extending his pre-trial detention in this case since then.
On 22 May, the SSSP opened a new criminal investigation into Ahmed Samir Santawy over social media posts. On 28 May 2021, he was referred to trial over the charge of “publishing false new to undermine the state, its national interests and public order and spread panic among the people” at the Misdemeanours Emergency State Security Court – a special court that operates when a state of emergency is in force. Amnesty International has documented how proceedings in front of such courts are inherently unfair. Their verdicts cannot be appealed and are only subject to authorization by the President to become final.
Ahmed Samir Santawy’s conviction comes against the backdrop of a relentless crackdown in Egypt on any form of dissent and the severe repression of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.