Last week the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association presented his report to the Third Committee of the General Assembly urging states and private sector to respect the exercise of human rights of those mobilising peacefully to address the climate crisis.
Today, 29 September 2021, marks two years since Egyptian human rights lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer’s arrest, meaning the length of his pretrial detention has now reached the maximum allowed under Egyptian law.
We, the undersigned organisations, condemn the prolonged arbitrary detention of lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer in connection with his human rights work, and we call for his immediate and unconditional release as well as the removal of his name from the “terrorist list.”
Mohamed El-Baqer is the head of the Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms. The center was established in 2014 to focus on criminal justice, education, and the protection and promotion of the rights of students, refugees, and migrants.
El-Baqer was arrested on 29 September 2019 at the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) premises in Cairo while attending an interrogation of activist and blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah, for whom he served as legal counsel. El-Baqer was thus transformed from a defense lawyer in Case No. 1356/2019 into a defendant in the same case. He has since been detained pending investigations into charges of “joining a terrorist group,” “disseminating false news that undermines national security,” “using social media to commit publishing offenses,” and “funding a terrorist group.” Multiple actors, including the UN, member States at the UN Human Rights Council, the U.S. Congress, and the European Parliament, have repeatedly called for El-Baqer’s release and denounced his prosecution for his legitimate human rights work.
A Terrorism Circuit judge in the Cairo Criminal Court ordered the release of both El-Baqer and Abdel Fattah on 19 February 2020, but the decision was reversed following an appeal from the SSSP.
During the past two years, El-Baqer has been interrogated only twice, once upon his arrest and then in August 2021. While in detention, the SSSP added him to a new case, No. 855/2020, and accused him of similar charges, a practice commonly referred to as “rotation.” Then, in November 2020, ُEl-Baqer’s name was added to the terrorist list for five years. Consequently, he is banned from traveling abroad and from assuming any official position or civil work for five years. In addition, a judicial order will freeze his bank accounts and assets. An appeal hearing before the Cassation Court is scheduled for 28 November 2021.
El-Baqer remains arbitrarily detained in inhumane conditions in the notorious Tora Maximum Security 2 Prison. He is held in a small and poorly ventilated cell, banned from exercising outside of his cell, and deprived of a bed, mattress, books, and newspapers. In addition, due to restrictions imposed over Covid-19, he was denied family visits for six months. Since visits were resumed, he has been restricted to only one 20 minute visit from a single family member each month.
We call on the Egyptian authorities to end their practice of using pretrial detention and unfounded terrorism charges to punish and repress human rights defenders for their legitimate work. We urge the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mohamed El-Baqer and bring an end to the arrests and detentions of human rights defenders.
*Signatories: ACAT France; Amnesty International; Centre for Applied Human Rights, University of York; EuroMed Rights; Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR); FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders; International Service for Human Rights (ISHR); Law Society of England and Wales; Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED); The Freedom Initiative; The Tahrir Institute For Middle East Policy (TIMEP); World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.
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