PEN International welcomes the release of award-winning writer, investigative journalist and socio-political researcher Ismail Alexandrani after serving seven years of arbitrary imprisonment. Alexandrani was arrested in 2015 and spent two years in pre-trial detention before being referred to a military court, which sentenced him to 10 years imprisonment over trumped-up charges following a grossly unfair trial. In October 2022, the Military Court of Cassation commuted his sentence to seven years.
Responding to the news of Alexandrani’s release Ma Thida, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, said:
“We welcome the long-awaited release of Ismail Alexandrani. His arrest and unjust imprisonment stand witness to the grim situation of freedom of expression and the mounting threats to writers and journalists in Egypt. He should have not spent a single day in prison. Instead of praising his efforts to present the truth to his readers, the Egyptian authorities chose to unfairly deprive him of his freedom for seven years. As we celebrate his long-awaited freedom, we also remember all those arbitrarily imprisoned in Egypt for practising their right to freedom of expression and reiterate our calls to release them all.”
Ismail Alexandrani is an award-winning writer, investigative journalist and socio-political researcher. He worked with several research centres, including the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights and the Arab Reform Initiative, and is best known for his research and writings on militant groups operating in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
Al-Iskandrani was arrested on 29 November 2015 at Hurghada Airport upon his return from Berlin, Germany. Authorities seized his laptop, mobile phone and personal belongings, and later presented them as evidence against him. He was held in arbitrary pre-trial detention for over two years before being referred to a military court under the pretext of revealing military secrets.
In May 2018, al-Iskandrani was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for ‘leaking military secrets’ and ‘membership of a unlawful group’. On 24 December 2018, an Egyptian military court upheld the 10-year prison sentence against him. He was held at the Mazraa (The Farm) prison in Tora prison complex, where he was reportedly denied access to in-person visits with his family, as well as access to reading and writing materials.
PEN believes that Alexandrani’s detention and conviction are linked to his work, which challenges the government’s narrative on its counter-terrorism operations in the Sinai Peninsula. Alexandrani’s writings offer a thorough analysis of the situation in Sinai, including the complex socio-economic interests of civilians and military in the region, and of the political mobilization that took place in Egypt during the Arab Spring in 2011. His work has been published in various regional and international media, as well as academic journals, including the independent Lebanese newspapers al-Safir and al-Modon, and the American Arab Studies Journal, Jadaliyya.
In 2015 Alexandrani was awarded the Visiting Arab Journalist Fellowship, Middle East Program, at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. In 2014, he won the Open Eye - Hany Darweesh Award for Exceptional Essay. In 2009, he was one of the winners of the Global Winner in Youth Essay Contest on Democracy (World Youth Movement for Democracy), and the winner of the National Contest for Spreading Understanding and Mutual Respect, at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.
Note to editors
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