ProtectDefenders.eu is alarmed by recent reports of ill-treatment in detention and persecution of human rights defenders advocating for the freedom of expression in Egypt. Our partners call for ceasing the targeting of all human rights defenders in the country and for guaranteeing in all circumstances that they can carry out their legitimate activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions. Only in recent weeks:
On 10 October 2020, human rights defender and journalist at Daaarb newspaper Khaled Elbalshy was informed that his brother, Kamal Elbalshy, had been placed under preventive detention. These events follow the arrest of Islam El-Kalhy on 9 September 2020, also a journalist at Daaarb newspaper, who was detained while covering a peaceful protest in Giza. Khaled Elbalshy is a human rights defender and prominent journalist. He is the chief editor of the Daaarb online newspaper, which works on documenting human rights violations, and following human rights defenders work in Egypt. Islam El Kalhy is a human rights defender and journalist at Daaarb newspaper where he monitors human rights violations in Egypt. At the time of his arrest, he was covering peaceful demonstrations taking place in Munib, south Giza following the killing of a man at the hands of police.
On 20 September 2020, Khaled Elbalshy’s brother, Kamal Elbalshy, was arrested while walking in the streets of Cairo near his home and was forcibly disappeared for 10 days. On 1 October 2020, he was spotted at the Office of the Public Prosecutor. He is accused of “joining an illegal organisation”, “misuse of social media” and “spreading false information” as part of the recently opened case 880, which is related to peaceful demonstrations that took place in September 2020. The arrest of Kamal Elbalshy is considered an attempt to further discourage his brother from carrying out his human rights work. Kamal Elbalshy’s arrest follows another recent incident involving the targeting of Daaarb staff. On 9 September 2020, Islam El-Kalhy was detained while he was covering demonstrations in Giza against police violence. On 10 September 2020, he was brought before the Public Prosecutor and is accused of “spreading false information”.
On 27 October 2020, the Public Prosecution renewed the detention of human rights defender Mohamed Ibrahim for an additional 45 days. The lawyer of the human rights defender reported that he continues to be subjected to ill-treatment in prison; family visits have been denied since March 2020 and the prison administration refuses to provide him with medication. Mohamed Ibrahim is a blogger and YouTuber who founded a blog, Facebook page, and YouTube channel called Oxygen Egypt where, before his detention, he published audio-visual and written reports on human rights issues and political and economic developments in Egypt. He also regularly interviewed media personnel, members of the opposition, and human rights defenders. In August 2020, he was transferred to Al-Aqrab prison, a maximum-security detention centre, notorious for its inhumane conditions. Mohamed Ibrahim has been in preventive detention since 23 September 2019. He was detained while reporting to a local police station in Cairo in compliance with his precautionary measures. His whereabouts remained unknown for 18 days. On 8 October 2019, the human rights defender appeared before the Supreme State Persecution, which handed down his first 15-day preventive detention. The human rights defender is facing charges of « membership of a terrorist organisation », « defamation », and « misuse of social media ».
According to RSF World Press Freedom Index, the press freedom situation is becoming more and more alarming in Egypt, with frequent waves of raids and arrests. Egypt is now one of the world’s biggest jailers of journalists, with some spending years in detention without being charged or tried, and others being sentenced to long jail terms or even life imprisonment in iniquitous mass trials.