Egypt jails US teacher for 'criticising Sisi regime' on Facebook

Egypt jails US teacher for 'criticising Sisi regime' on Facebook
Reem Mohamed Dessouky was arrested at Cairo airport while en route to visit family, in the latest crackdown on government criticism.
2 min read
09 August, 2019
The Sisi regime has become intolerant of even mild criticism on social media [Getty]
An American woman travelling to Egypt with her son has been held in a notorious prison since July after being detained on charges of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and criticising the current regime, according to a report in The Washington Post.

Reem Mohamed Desouky, a teacher from Pennsylvania, was arrested with her 13-year-old son at Cairo airport on arrival from Washington on July 20. 

While her son was released shortly after, Desouky, a dual-US-Egyptian citizen, was sent to Al-Qanater women’s prison on charges of administering social media accounts deemed critical of the regime and joining the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt deems a terrorist organisation.

Having allegedly confiscated their phones and subjected them to hours-long interrogation at the airport, authorities found Desouky to be critical of the Sisi regime on Facebook. 

Egypt’s military regime has been systematically cracking down on any show of government criticism since the coup that toppled the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood.

Desouky’s son, Moustafa Hamed, was allowed to visit his mother once in prison accompanied by his uncle Nour, however authorities detained Nour during the visit.

“Her arrest is emblematic of the levels of repression Egypt has reached under Sisi,” said Mohamed Soltan, a former Egyptian prisoner and the development director at The Freedom Initiative, a human rights organisation.

Desouky is reportedly receiving consular help from the US, however her family and lawyer say no consular officers have visited her since her arrest.

Desouky is among an estimated 18 American citizens currently behind bars in Egypt, however the US claims most of these are on non-political charges.

Human Rights Watch issued a plea on Friday for the humane treatment of Khaled Hassan, a 42-year-old Egyptian American limousine driver from New York. 

Hassan attempted suicide in July after serial abuse, including rape, and inadequate mental health treament at the hands of his Egyptian jailers.

Egypt accuses Hassan of attempting to join the IS-affiliate in the northern Sinai, however Hassan says he was just visiting family in Egypt.

“The Trump administration and the US Congress should press President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to ensure humane treatment for Khaled Hassan and fellow detainees,” said Soltan, whose organisation is working with HRW on the cases.

“The ever-expanding list of serious abuses in Egypt’s ghastly prison system should be investigated immediately,” he added.