Egypt in a state of 'ruthless, all-out repression'

Egypt in a state of 'ruthless, all-out repression'
Egypt's Sisi has regressed into "all-out repression", with tens of thousands of the country's brightest languishing in jail, rights group Amnesty International said on Tuesday.
4 min read
30 June, 2015
A new wave of arrests in mid-2015 saw at least 160 people detained [Anadolu]
Two years after the army ousted president Mohamed Morsi, Egypt has regressed into "all-out repression", with activists jailed in a bid to crush dissent, Amnesty International warned on Tuesday.

The London-based human rights watchdog said that Egyptian authorities, led by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, are engaged in a blatant attempt to "nip in the bid any future threat to their rule".

"Mass protests have been replaced by mass arrests," Amnesty said in a statement ahead of the second anniversary on Friday of the July 3, 2013 ouster of the Islamist Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected leader.

     The Egyptian authorities have shown that they will stop at nothing in their attempts to crush all challenges to their authority
"Today youth activists are languishing behind bars, providing every indication that Egypt has regressed into a state of all-out repression," Amnesty's Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said.

It said a government crackdown has resulted in more than 41,000 people arrested, charged or indicted with a criminal offence, or sentenced after unfair trials.

Ahmed Douma, 25, a well-known blogger and political activist, was one of the first to be imprisoned for "defying the Protest Law" and is serving a a three-year prison sentence for contempt of court, and a separate 25-year prison sentence for protesting, handed down in February 2015.

Amnesty also documented the case of high-school student Hatem Ahmed Zaghloul Ali, who was one of 37 people sentenced to death in April 2014 in a grossly unfair trial.

He was just 17 at the time and spent months condemned to death, before the Court of Cassation overturned his conviction and those of the others in January 2015. However, he remains detained while he awaits a retrial.

"The Egyptian authorities have shown that they will stop at nothing in their attempts to crush all challenges to their authority," Hadj Sahraoui said.

Amnesty said a new wave of arrests in mid-2015 saw at least 160 people detained in conditions amounting to enforced disappearance.

Menatalla Moustafa, a 19-year-old teacher was detained awaiting a retrial on charges of “protesting without authorisation”. She is one of many students arrested for taking part in protests against the Egyptian authorities.

“Her absence is a deep gnash of pain, time stolen from her and from us" a family member told Amnesty.

"We try to take hope from the letters she sneaks out to us, comforting us when she is the one in need of comfort, and yet with each passing day, we see her smile falter more and more."

Hadj Sahraoui said the crackdown that initially began with the arrests of Morsi and his supporters has rapidly expanded to encompass Egypt's entire political spectrum.

Irish national Ibrahim Halawa, 19, is another youth facing trial. He was 17 at the time of his arrest, and was taken into custody, with his three sisters - who were released three months later - during protests in the Ramsis area of central Cairo in August 2013.

His sister, Somaia Halawa, told Amnesty “When we were released on bail after three months we felt like we got our freedom back but not all of it. Rather than recovering from all the bad things that happened in prison, you have to pretend like you’re strong."

“Hopefully, when Ibrahim comes out our real lives can continue. Two years have been taken away from Ibrahim. They will have such an effect on him. He will pretend his is strong but when he comes back, will he be angry? Will he be weak?” she added. 

However, the Egyptian foreign ministry criticised Amnesty's remarks, saying they "lacked objectivity" and showed the rights group's policy of "double standards".

Amnesty has "deliberately ignored presidential pardons granted to hundreds of young people," the ministry said.

Earlier this month, the authorities released 165 people who had been jailed for breaking a controversial protest law.

Those released do not include any figures from the 2011 revolt that drove Hosni Mubarak from power and who were imprisoned under the law in a move that caused uproar among human rights groups.

Amnesty also criticised Sisi's Western allies for their ties with his regime, saying there is "no indication that stopping gross human rights violations in Egypt was on the agenda during" their meetings with it.

"Egypt is jailing peaceful activists while the international community looks the other away. There's silence from states, silence from world leaders and silence in the UN Human Rights Council" Sahraoui said.