Harsh repression continues as human rights lawyer is sentenced for giving a BBC interview over human rights record

Press release

Paris-Geneva, March 13, 2020 - The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT) denounces the conviction and sentencing of a prominent human rights lawyer because of a 2017 interview, which reveals again the absurdity of the situation in the country.

On March 10, 2020, human rights lawyer and former member of Parliament Zyad El-Elaimy was sentenced to one year in prison and a 20,000 Egyptian pounds (around 1,125 Euros) fine by the Mokattam Misdemeanour Court. The Court found him guilty of “spreading false news with an intent to spread panic among the people and disturbing public peace” during an interview he gave to the BBC in July 2017 related to human rights issues in Egypt. Mr. El-Elaimy appealed this sentence and the next hearing is scheduled for April 7, 2020. Until then, he will remain in detention in Tora Prison.

“We strongly condemn the unfair conviction of Zyad El-Elaimy and we call on the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release him and drop all charges against him”, said Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General.

“The Egyptian authorities have employed increasingly restrictive tactics to repress civil society and silence dissent. This conviction of Zyad El-Elaimy is part of aclear human rights regression which the country has been experiencing in recent years”, stated Alice Mogwe, FIDH President.

Zyad El-Elaimy is also facing charges of “engaging with a terrorist group to achieve its goals” and “spreading false news and statements” in a separate case and has been held in pre-trial detention since his arrest on June 25, 2019[1].

Since the beginning of his detention, Mr. El-Elaimy’s health has been deteriorating. He suffers from diabetes, hypertension, asthma and a stomach ulcer in addition to a rare autoimmune disease, which requires treatment with steroids. He has been on the same doses of his medications since June 2019, although the doctor who had treated him outside the prison had emphasised that he needed frequent medical follow-up to adjust his doses. Besides, Mr. El-Elaimy now suffers from pericardial effusion (excess fluid between the heart and the sac surrounding the heart). On February 12, Mr. El-Elaimy’s lawyer presented a complaint before the Cairo Administrative Court, requesting his immediate transfer to an appropriate hospital, so that he can receive the urgent medical care he requires. So far, this transfer has still not taken place.

The Observatory calls on the Egyptian authorities to end any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against all human rights defenders in Egypt.

· FIDH: Samuel Hanryon / Eva Canan: +33 1 43 55 25 18
· OMCT: Iolanda Jaquemet: + 41 22 809 49 39

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


[1]See FIDH, OMCT and CIHRS Joint Press Release, Egypt: New crackdown to terrorise civil society, July 23, 2019.

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