Egypt: New charges against master’s student Ahmed Samir Santawy

Urgent Appeal

New information
EGY 001 / 0221 / OBS 023.1
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment /
February 25, 2021

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

New information:

The Observatory has been informed about the judicial harassment and ongoing arbitrary detention of Ahmed Samir Santawy, a master’s student in Sociology and Social Anthropology at the Central European University (CEU) of Austria, in Vienna, whose academic work focuses on women’s rights in Egypt, particularly on the history of reproductive rights. His main concern is the protection of women’s reproductive rights and their access to legal and safe treatments in order to preserve their lives.

On February 23, 2021, Ahmed Samir Santawy was presented before the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) for a "continuation of investigations" hearing. The SSSP charged him with "funding a terrorist organization", based on alleged new evidence from the National Security Agency investigation. This new charge comes in addition to the three charges of “joining a terrorist organization”, “deliberately spreading false news and data”, and “use of a private account on the Internet to spread false news or data” brought against him during his first hearing on February 6, 2021, and based on screenshots from a Facebook account which allegedly belongs to Mr. Santawy.

During this hearing, Ahmed Samir Santawy reported that he has been held in solitary confinement since he was transferred to Liman Torah Prison on February 6, 2021. He further reported to the Prosecutor that he is extremely cold in his cell and he does not have any winter clothes. In addition, Mr. Santawy has not been able to communicate with his family since he was arrested on February 1, 2021 and the prison authorities did not allow him to receive the money his family tried to transfer to him so he could buy food from the prison canteen, even though prison regulations stipulate that detainees should be allowed to access to money and visits after 11 days of detention.

The Observatory recalls that Ahmed Samir Santawy was reportedly subjected to ill-treatment during his interrogation on February 1, 2021. He remains detained at Liman Torah Prison since his pretrial detention was renewed by the SSSP for 15 days pending investigations on February 17, 2021, without him or his lawyer being allowed to attend the hearing.

The Observatory further recalls that Ahmed Samir Santawy is not the first international student who has been targeted by the Egyptian authorities. On February 7, 2020, postgraduate student at Bologna University (Italy) and Gender and Human Rights researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) Patrick George Zaki was arrested at Cairo airport upon his arrival from Italy and allegedly subjected to torture during his interrogations. He was charged with “publishing rumours and false news that aim to disturb social peace and sow chaos”, “incitement to protest without permission from the relevant authorities with the aim of undermining state authority”, “calling for the overthrow of the state”, “managing a social media account that aims to undermine the social order and public safety” and “incitement to commit violence and terrorist crimes”, and has remained in detention in Tora prison ever since.

The Observatory underlinesthat Egyptian authorities have increasingly employed repressive tactics such as the arbitrary revival of cases, prolonged pre-trial detention, 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 expresses its utmost concern over the arbitrary detention, judicial harassment and alleged ill-treatment of Ahmed Samir Santawy and Patrick George Zaki which seem to be only aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities. The Observatory calls on the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release them and to carry out an investigation into these acts.

Actions requested:

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

i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being ofAhmed Samir Santawy and Patrick George Zaki as well as of all other human rights defenders in Egypt;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Ahmed Samir Santawy and Patrick George Zaki, as their detention is arbitrary since it only seems to aim at punishing them for their human rights activities, and drop all charges against them;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, againstAhmed Samir Santawy and Patrick George Zaki, as well as of all human rights defenders in Egypt and ensure that they are able to carry out their activities without hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iv. Guarantee the unhindered access of Ahmed Samir Santawy to a lawyer of his choice and to his family members;

v. Carry out an immediate, independent and impartial investigation into alleged above-mentioned acts of ill-treatment against Ahmed Samir Santawy and Patrick George Zaki in order to bring all those responsible before a competent tribunal in accordance with international standards.


· President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, H.E. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Email:, Twitter: @AlsisiOfficial
· Prime Minister, Mr. Mustafa Kemal Madbouly Mohamed. Email:
· Minister of the Interior, Mr. Mahmoud Tawfik, Email:
· Head of the Egyptian Parliament’s Human Rights Committee, Mr. Tarek Radwan, Email:
· Mr. Mohamed Fayeq, President of the National Council for Human Rights, Email:
· H.E. Mr. Ahmed Ihab Abdelahad Gamaleldin, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Egypt to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email:
· Embassy of Egypt in Brussels, Belgium, Email:

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

Geneva-Paris, February 25, 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 the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· E-mail:
· Tel OMCT: +41 (0) 22 809 49 39
· Tel FIDH: +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18

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