Leading opposition activists jailed by Egypt emergency court as royals pose at the pyramids

Three prominent opposition activists, former MP Zyad el-Elaimy, journalist and socialist activist Hisham Fouad, and Nasserist activist Hossam Moanis were given between 3 and 5 year jail sentences on trumped up charges by an emergency court in Cairo on 17 November. Just a day later, Prince Charles and Camilla were photographed by the world’s media enjoying the sights, as part of a tour of Egypt where they were guests of the military regime. 

Amnesty International’s Philip Luther condemned the draconian sentences on the three activists, who were jailed after spending more than two years detained in appalling conditions. 

“Despite ending the state of emergency, the Egyptian authorities continue to use emergency courts to silence those who peacefully criticize Egypt’s abysmal human rights record. These politicians and activists should never have been arrested in the first place and yet they have been convicted and sentenced to prison on charges related to their legitimate criticism of the Egyptian authorities.

“President Al-Sisi must quash the sentences and immediately and unconditionally release all those detained purely for exercising their right to freedom of expression. The authorities must also cease sham trials by emergency courts which fail to respect international fair trial standards, including the right to appeal.”

Hisham, Zyad and Hossam’s only ‘crime’ was to discuss the possibility of forming an opposition electoral coalition and to share material critical of the regime’s appalling human rights record online. They have been subject to what Amnesty calls “a litany of human rights violations”, alongside others also arrested and sentenced in this case. This has included denial of adequate medical care, putting severe pressure on the detainees’ health. 

Meanwhile, the regime has used the royal visit to further burnish its image. As the New York Times puts it, Egypt’s military rulers are keen to present the country as “the host of the next United Nations climate summit, a rising competitor in the natural gas industry, a business destination for European energy and defense giants, and a valued partner for the United States on the Israel-Palestine question,” brushing under the carpet the continued repression. 

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