Three members of Egypt’s leading human rights group were detained and arrested in Cairo last month have finally been released following widespread criticism from across the globe.
Global Criticism And Condemnation
The men, who worked for the Egypt Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), are accused of contacting a terrorist group and “spreading false stories”.
The UN human rights group has described the arrests as “cold-blooded”.
Celebrities Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry and Scarlett Johansson have joined politicians in protesting the arrests.
The EIPR is an independent body whose work covers a wide range of political, social, economic and social issues.
Who Were The Activists?
The group’s researcher, Patrick Zaky, who was arrested in February, is still in custody.
The EIPR says it has been arrested for spreading false information, misusing social media and inciting protests without permission.
Many activists have been arrested under Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, who led the military coup of democratically elected Mohammed Morsi in 2013 following protests against his rule.
Egypt, however, has repeatedly denied allegations of human rights abuses.
In a statement last month, the EIPR said security forces had arrested lead member Gasser Abdel-Razek at his home in Maadi, south of Cairo, on November 19.
It said a few days ago its crime director, Karim Ennarah, was arrested in the city of Dahab and his office manager, Mohammed Basheer, was arrested in Cairo.
The three men were remanded in custody pending an investigation, adding that Mr Basheer’s home had been raided and questioned during a November 3 visit by senior Western officials at the EIPR office in Cairo to discuss human rights.
EIPR’s Stance On The Detentions
The EIPR described the arrest of these as a “clear and coordinated response” to its work, which included monitoring areas of detention and issuing death sentences.
It said Mr Abdel-Razek’s arrest was “an attempt to end the organized and legitimate human rights work in Egypt”.
The EIPR was created in 2002.
EIPR aims to complement the work of other Egyptian human rights groups by focussing on human rights related to a person’s “body, privacy and house”.
The EIPR uses “research, documentation, legal aid, strategic litigation and advocacy” on issues including prison conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic in Egypt, capital punishment in Egypt, attacks against LGBT rights in Egypt, and “foreign debt and sectarian violence”.
Meanwhile, Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the arrests would be part of a process of intimidation and closure of unity.
On Thursday, the EIPR confirmed on Twitter that by “unusual” action, the three men had been released from the Torah prison, adding that they were “welcome home”.
Their release comes after the UN demanded the release of the men, and after both France and the US Department of State said they were “deeply concerned” about their imprisonment.
Separately, Hollywood actor Johansson shared a video published on the EIPR YouTube channel on December 1 urging Cairo authorities to release the men, saying they were “standing up to protect Egyptian dignity”.
“Speaking out loud is dangerous today in Egypt,” he added.
British comedian Stephen Fry, actors Emma Thompson, Joseph Fiennes and Bill Nighy also condemned the arrests and sent messages of support.