Egypt: Judicial harassment of Hossam Bahgat, Executive Director of EIPR

02/11/2021
Urgent Appeal

EGY 002 / 1121 / OBS 110
Judicial harassment
Egypt
November 2, 2021

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Egypt.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed about the judicial harassment of Mr. Hossam Bahgat, a prominent advocate for freedom of expression in Egypt, Executive director and founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR).

On November 2, 2021, Hossam Bahgat appeared in front of the Cairo Economic Court, which decided to announce its verdict on November 29, 2021. Mr. Bahgat is prosecuted on charges of “insulting Egypt’s electoral commission” and “spreading false news” in relation with a post he published on his personal Twitter account criticising alleged electoral fraud during Egypt’s parliamentary elections of December 2020. If convicted, Mr. Bahgat could face up to three years in prison and a fine of 300,000 Egyptian pounds.

On June 16, 2021, Hossam Bahgat was summoned for interrogation by the Public Prosecutor’s office in Rehab city after a complaint by the acting president of the Election Authority about the above-mentioned tweet, and was charged with “insulting a public institution”, being the National Election Authority (Article 184 of the Egyptian Penal Code), “publishing, with ill intent, false news and rumours regarding fraud in the parliamentary elections which disturbed public security and harmed public interest” (Article 188 of the same Code), as well as “using online accounts”, on Twitter and Facebook, to commit the two mentioned crimes (Article 27 of the Cybercrime Law of 2018).

The Observatory recalls that this is not the first time Hossam Bahgat is targeted for his human rights work and the exercise of his right to freedom of expression. In November 2015, Mr. Bahgat was arbitrarily detained for three days and charged with “spreading false news” in relation to an investigation he published in Mada Masr on the military trial of Egyptian officers accused of planning to overthrow the government. In addition, on February 4, 2016, Mr. Bahgat was placed under travel ban and, on September 17, 2016, the Cairo Criminal Court ordered the freezing of his assets within the framework of criminal case No. 173/2011, known as “the civil society case”. At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, these restrictions are still in place and the investigation into these two cases are ongoing.

The Observatory notes with concern that these acts of harassment are part of a widespread repression of civil society in Egypt. In this context, EIPR members have been particularly targeted. In November 2020, Karim Ennarah, EIPR’s Criminal Justice Director, Mohammed Basheer, EIPR’s Administrative Manager, and Gasser Abdel-Razek, EIPR’s then Executive Director, were arbitrarily detained during several days and charged with “membership of a terrorist organisation” and “using social media accounts to publish false news and information that may harm public peace and security”. Although released, the three staff members were placed under a travel ban and their personal assets have been frozen to date. In addition, Mr. Patrick George Zaki, a postgraduate student at Bologna University and a Gender and Human Rights researcher at EIPR was arbitrarily arrested on February 7, 2020 and hasbeen held in pre-trial detention in Tora prison in Cairo ever since. In September 2021 Zaki was indicted and referred to an Emergency State Security Court for trial over an article he had published two years earlier on discrimination and violence against Coptic Christians in Egypt. His trial is set to resume in December 2021.

The Observatory expresses its utmost concern over the ongoing judicial harassment of Hossam Bahgat which seems to be only aimed at punishing him for his legitimate human rights activities. The Observatory recalls that Egyptian authorities have increasingly employed repressive tactics such as prolonged pre-trial detention, recycling cases against dissidents, enforced disappearance, torture, and judicial harassment to silence all critical voices, including through unfounded investigations for national security and counter-terrorism related charges.

The Observatory calls on the Egyptian authorities to put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Hossam Bahgat and to guarantee his right of a fair trial throughout all the proceedings against him.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Egypt, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Hossam Bahgat, as well as that of all human rights defenders in Egypt;

ii. Guarantee that Hossam Bahgat’s right to a fair trial is respected throughout all the proceedings against him;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Hossam Bahgat, as well as of all human rights defenders in Egypt and ensure that they are able to carry out their activities without hindrance.

Addresses:

● President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, H.E. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Email: p.spokesman@op.gov.eg, Twitter: @AlsisiOfficial
● Prime Minister, Mr. Mustafa Kemal Madbouly Mohamed. Email: pm@cabinet.gov.eg
● Minister of the Interior, Mr. Mahmoud Tawfik, Email: center@iscmi.gov.eg
● Head of the Egyptian Parliament’s Human Rights Committee, Mr. Tarek Radwan, Email: humanrightscomplaints@parliament.gov.eg
● Mr. Mohamed Fayeq, President of the National Council for Human Rights, Email: nchr@nchr.org.eg
● H.E. Mr. Ihab Gamaleldin, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Egypt to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: mission.egypt@bluewin.ch
● Embassy of Egypt in Brussels, Belgium, Email: embassy.egypt@skynet.be

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Egypt in your respective country.

***
Paris-Geneva, November 2, 2021

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
● E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
● Tel FIDH: +33 1 43 55 18 80
● Tel OMCT: +41 22 809 49 29

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