Egyptian outspoken activist Mamdouh Hamza returns home after over 3 years in self-exile
After spending over three years in self-exile, prominent Egyptian activist Mamdouh Hamza has returned, arriving in Cairo on Sunday evening a few days after an emergency court lifted his name from travel ban lists.
Shortly after he landed at Cairo International Airport, Hamza posted a video on his Facebook page in which he said he was received by a high-ranking police officer who welcomed him home as "one of Egypt's loyal sons."
Hamza said he was "optimistic" and that lifting his name from the watch list may have insinuated "a breakthrough" and that "the country was moving towards the right direction."
"I hope this breakthrough reaches beyond myself as I met so many other loyal sons abroad, and there are [many] others in prison," Hamza said.
Local and international rights groups have estimated that more than 60,000 political prisoners are being held in Egypt.
Hamza is known for being an outspoken critic of the regime of President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and his political and economic policies.
The renowned engineer was forced to flee the country after he had been convicted of terrorism-related charges and sentenced to six months in absentia in October 2020.
In September 2021, the military prosecutor overturned the verdict against Hamza, allowing for a retrial. He is expected to stand trial in April this year.
Last year, the authorities also removed Hamza's name from the terror watch list.
Hamza had been accused of "inciting violence" and "spreading false news" for a tweet he had posted on July 2017 in support of the Warraq island residents in Giza province who were protesting against the demolition of their homes.
The court ruling linked Hamza's tweet to clashes erupting on the Island in defiance of state eviction orders, which left one resident dead and several others injured.
Hamza is one the key figures behind the 25 January revolution that led to the ouster of long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
The former Sisi supporter antagonised the Muslim Brotherhood, currently designated as a "terrorist group" in Egypt.
Late first democratically-elected president Mohamed Morsi belonged to the group before he was overthrown in July 2013 by the then-defence minister Sisi.
The actual reason behind facilitating for Hamza to return home, though he criticised the government of Sisi until recently remains unclear.
Hamza could not be reached for comment till the time of publishing.