Egyptian human rights activists face spurious “terrorism” charges in latest crackdown

Well-known human rights NGO, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) is facing a coordinated assault by the authorities following the arrest and detention of key members of staff last week. Two of those arrested Karim Ennarah, head of EIPR’s Criminal Justice Unit, and administrative director Mohamed Bashir, have been added to a case opened by prosecutors in August 2020 which targets prominent political prisoners such as socialist lawyer Mahienour el-Masry with spurious “terrorism” charges. 

In a statement published online, EIPR said that executive director Gasser Abdel Razek was arrested from his home on 20 November, following the arrests of Ennarah on 18 November and Bashir on 15 November. Another EIPR staff member, Bologna University graduate student Patrick Zaki was detained and tortured in February 2020, sparking major protests in Italy where there has also been a large-scale campaign for justice for researcher Giulio Regeni, murdered by the Egyptian security forces in 2016

Ennarah, who is an alumnus of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, and Bashir, have been charged with “joining a terrorist group” as part of case 855/2020, opened by prosecutors in August this year. Other activists named in the case include lawyer Mahienour el-Masry and journalist Solafa Magdy. Such accusations are commonly directed against human rights activists, independent journalists, lawyers and political opponents of the regime. 

Sandy Nicoll, branch secretary of Unison at SOAS told Egypt Solidarity Initiative he and his members were appalled to hear of the latest arrests.

“The charges against Karim and his colleagues at EIPR are an outrageous attack on an organisation which has fought hard to defend the rights of all Egyptians from a regime which has repeatedly lashed out at civil society, trade unionists and journalists. We stand in full solidarity with Karim and his colleagues and call on SOAS management to make a public statement demanding their immediate release. It is a disgrace that the British government continues to do business with the Sisi regime. We will be publicising this latest crackdown throughout the trade union movement and urging our colleagues to redouble their efforts to mobilise solidarity with Egyptian political prisoners and activists under threat.”

Sandy Nicoll, SOAS Unison

Dr Feyzi Ismail, who teaches political economy at SOAS and is a member of the executive of SOAS UCU added:

I stand in solidarity with staff at EIPR who are the latest target of the Egyptian government’s crackdown on freedoms of expression. The violent repression of opposition is a concern for trade unionists in the UK. We call on the UK government to do more to oppose the arrest and detention of those who challenge el-Sisi’s regime.

Feyzi Ismail, SOAS UCU

What you can do: 

  • If you are a trade unionist, add your name to the protest statement here
  • Sign the petition calling for Karim’s release here
  • Send protest emails to the Egyptian Ambassador in your country, calling for the immediate release of the EIPR detainees and all other political prisoners.