Three Egyptian Activists on Hunger Strike to Protest Indefinite Detention

Three Egyptian activists have began hunger strikes on February 10 and 11, 2022, to protest their indefinite pretrial detention.

According to Human Rights Watch, Egyptian authorities should immediately release the activists or present evidence of wrongdoing in a trial meeting fair trial standards.

The three activists – Ahmed Maher, Walid Shawky, and Abdel Rahman Tarek – have been held between 20 months and nearly three-and-a-half years. The three face abusive charges of “joining a terrorist organization,” “spreading false news,” and “misusing social media.”

Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Human Rights Watch, Joe Stork

When judges issued release orders, prosecutors recycled them to different cases to circumvent the two-year limit on pretrial detention in Egyptian law.

Deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, Joe Stork wants the Egyptian authorities to free Shawky, Maher, and Tarek now and end the wanton use of endless pretrial detention as a tool of repression. According to him, Years in jail without trial on spurious charges is outrageous.

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Egyptian authorities have increasingly relied on “recycling” to indefinitely jail activists without trial, particularly following a mass arrest campaign in September 2019. The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, a human rights group, documented at least 97 cases of “recycled” detention from July 2015 to May 2020.

Shawky and Tarek are former members of the April 6 Movement, which emerged on that date in 2008 to support an industrial strike in the town of Mahalla al-Kubra. The organization played a vital role in organizing the January 25, 2011 mass protests that led to the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak.
An Egyptian Court of Urgent Matters banned the activities of the group in April 2014. Maher is a former member of the Strong Egypt Party headed by Abd al-Moniem Abu al-Fotouh, a 2012 presidential candidate who has been jailed since February 2018 and is facing trial in an Emergency State Security Court.

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Shawky began his hunger strike on February 11. On February 22, a family member who visited him reported that his health and mental state had greatly deteriorated. His relative told Human Rights Watch that his decision to go on hunger strike “is the only way he can express himself.”

Security forces arrested Shawky on October 14, 2018, and forcibly held him. He appeared six days later at the State Security Prosecution, which charged him with “joining a terrorist organization,” “spreading false news,” and “misusing social media.”

According to his lawyer, after a Cairo Criminal Court ordered Shawky’s release on August 23, 2020, he was forcibly incarcerated again for more than a month and brought again before the State Security Prosecution in connection with a different case that carried the same charges

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Human Rights Watch is urging the Egyptian authorities to free Shawky, Maher, and Tarek now and end the wanton use of endless pretrial detention as a tool of repression.

“The Egyptian government’s reliance on the legal subterfuge of ‘recycling’ flaunts the Egyptian Criminal Procedure Code’s limits on pretrial detentions and exposes the absurdity of Egypt’s justice system,” Stork said.

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