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Egypt: retaliatory verdicts following an unjust ‘emergency’ trial must be quashed

Monday 20 December 2021 - 5:05pm

Alaa Abdelfattah

متاح بالعربية هنا

PEN International is outraged by today’s sentencing of writer and prominent blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah to five years imprisonment and prominent human rights lawyer Mohamed al-Baqer and blogger Mohamed “Oxygen” Ibrahim to four years imprisonment by Egypt’s Emergency State Security Court. The harsh verdicts illustrate Egypt’s draconian use of a flawed justice system, including exceptional courts to crush freedom of expression and punish government critics.

PEN International believes that Abdel Fattah, al-Baqer and Ibrahim’s convictions followed an unfair trial before an exceptional court, and are acts of retaliation for their legitimate practice of the right to freedom of expression. PEN International calls on the Egyptian authorities to quash the convictions, drop all charges against them and immediately and unconditionally release them.

Responding to the sentencing, Ma Thida, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, said: “It is utterly disgraceful to send prominent writers, bloggers and human rights lawyers to jail over false charges and deny them their right to a fair trial due to their criticism to the government. No one should be jailed for sharing a post or tweeting about human rights abuses. Today’s verdict illustrates the Egyptian authorities’ ruthless crackdown on freedom of expression, aiming to punish, intimidate and silence independent voices. Abdel Fattah, Baqer and Ibrahim should all be freed, and all charges against them should be dropped.”

Prominent blogger and writer Alaa Abdel Fattah has been in arbitrary pre-trial detention at the notorious Tora Max-Security Prison II since September 2019, facing trumped-up charges including ‘joining an illegal organisation’, ‘spreading false news,’ and ‘misusing social media.’ In October 2021, Abdel Fattah was referred to the Emergency misdemeanour State Security Court along with prominent human rights lawyer Mohamed al-Baqer and blogger Mohamed Ibrahim, days before the president announced the end of the state of emergency in the country.

According to Abdel Fattah’s family, the prison authorities have denied him access to books and newspapers for almost two years. Prison authorities are not allowing him to leave his cell, preventing any form of physical exercise. Such extra-punitive measures have a devastating impact on Alaa’s mental and physical health and well-being. Abdel Fattah has spent two-thirds of the last decade in jail for criticising the government.

For more details, please visit PEN International previous statement here.

For more information, please contact Mina Thabet, MENA Regional Coordinator, at PEN International, Koops Mill Mews, Unit A, 162-164 Abbey St, London, SE1 2AN, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, email: Mina.Thabet@pen-international.org

Note to editors:

PEN International promotes literature and freedom of expression and is governed by the PEN Charter and the principles it embodies: unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations. Founded in London in 1921, PEN International – PEN’s Secretariat – connects an international community of writers. It is a forum where writers meet freely to discuss their work; it is also a voice speaking out for writers silenced in their own countries. Through Centres in over 100 countries, PEN operates on five continents. PEN International is a non-political organisation which holds Special Consultative Status at the UN and Associate Status at UNESCO. PEN International is a registered charity in England and Wales with registration number 1117088