Egypt names more than 1,000 citizens as 'terrorists'
Egypt has come under fire for its “indiscriminate use of broad counterterrorism laws” after a criminal court classified around 1,500 citizens as “terrorists” for their alleged assistance to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Since former president Mohamed Morsi's overthrow, led by then military chief now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, authorities have effectively banned protests, imprisoned tens of thousands – often after unfair trials – and outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood.
A sweeping counterterrorism law has expanded the authorities’ powers, with National Security officers committing torture and enforced disappearances.
“Dumping hundreds of people onto a list of alleged terrorists, with serious ramifications for their freedom and livelihood, and without even telling them, makes a mockery of due process,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch [HRW].
The immediate effects from the January 12 decision include a travel ban, asset freeze, loss of political rights, and passport cancellation.
Among those placed on the list were former President Mohamed Morsi and his sons, senior Brotherhood leaders, businessman Safwan Thabet, former footballer Mohammed Aboutrika and journalist Hisham Gaafar.
The people involved were not able to contest the designation, and most may not have been informed about it before the court ruled, HRW added.
Lawyers for several of the people told Human Rights Watch that the authorities did not inform their clients about any related court sessions and that they first knew about the decision from media outlets that reported it on January 17.
“Using these laws to impose penalties on people without giving them a chance to defend themselves seriously violates their rights to due process,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Tuesday.
The decision can be appealed directly to Egypt’s highest appeals court.
“Terrorism is a real issue in Egypt, but the authorities are using blunt tools of questionable legality to confront the problem,” Stork said.
“Such an approach disregards facts indiscriminately labels opponents as terrorists, and makes no effort to sort the guilty from the innocent.”