Egyptian-American activist sues ex-prime minister over arrest and torture

Egyptian-American activist sues ex-prime minister over arrest and torture
Mohamad Soltan, a dual national jailed during protests against Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has filed a lawsuit against a former prime minister now resident in the US.
3 min read
02 June, 2020
Soltan was arrested after participating in protests against Egypt's President Sisi [Getty]
An Egyptian-American activist, jailed for two years following a bloody crackdown on protesters in the country, has sued Egypt's then-Prime Minister Hazem Abdel Aziz El Beblawi.

Mohamed Soltan, 32, was detained in 2013 after participating in a landmark protest against Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

On Monday, Soltan filed a lawsuit in Washington D.C. against Beblawi, accusing the former prime minister of responsibility for his detention and torture under the 1991 Torture Victim Protection Act. 

The activist is able to sue the former Egyptian official in the unprecedented case as Beblawi is now resident in the US, where he works at the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Soltan alleges that Beblawi coordinated with other Egyptian officials to monitor his movements during the 2013 protests led by supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.

As well as accusing the former prime minister of direct responsibility for his arrest and torture, the lawsuit argues Beblawi was targeted for assassination by Egyptian security forces during the bloody crackdown.

Read more: How jail became a death sentence for an Egyptian filmmaker

The Egyptian-American activist had been camped out in Cairo's Rabaa Al-Adawiya alongside supporters of Morsi when security forces raided the camp, massacring more than 1,000 people.

Soltan was later detained by security forces after speaking to journalists who reported on the massacre. 

He subsequently spent 643 days in multiple detention centres, where he was beaten, denied medical treatment and burned with cigarettes.

According to court documents, guards in one prison encouraged him to die by suicide and left him alone in a cell with a decomposing corpse.

Beblawi worked alongside Sisi and then-intelligence chief Abbas Kamel - both listed as "unsued defendants" in the case - to "direct and monitor" Soltan's mistreatment, the lawsuit alleges.

He was finally released from prison and deported to the US after a prolonged hunger strike of more than a year.

"I wanted to help build my country of origin into a place that respected human rights, democratic values and the truth. For that, I was shot, beaten, sleep deprived, pressured to commit suicide and forced to listen to my father being tortured," Soltan said in a statement on Monday.

"This legal action is not just about me and what I endured, it is about deterrence and the prevention of torture... It is my hope that the world does not witness a repeat of the tragic events that happened in Tahrir Square, Maspero and Rabaa," he said.

Egypt launched a wide-ranging crackdown on dissent after Sisi seized power in a 2013 military coup from Morsi, the country's first democratically-elected but divisive president.  

Sisi's regime has imposed tight control of the media and rolled back freedoms won in the 2011 revolution, jailing thousands of Islamists and secular, pro-democracy advocates.

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