Jailed Palestinian activist lands in France after Egypt release

Jailed Palestinian activist lands in France after Egypt release
Ramy Shaath, a figure of the 2011 uprising, has landed in France, following his release by Egyptian authorities.
3 min read
Ramy Shaath was detained for almost two and a half years [Getty]

Egyptian-Palestinian activist Ramy Shaath arrived in France Saturday after almost two-and-a-half years in detention in Egypt, after his family said he had to renounce his Egyptian nationality.

The 48-year-old was a figure of the 2011 uprising in Egypt and the coordinator of the country's chapter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

An AFP correspondent saw the activist walk out of Charles De Gaulle Airport outside Paris with his French wife, Celine Lebrun.

Shaath said finally being free was "a bit overwhelming".

"I spent the last two-and-a-half years in between a few prisons, a few forced disappearance spots, some of them underground, some of them solely, some of them with huge numbers of people in a very inhumane way of treatment," he said.

His family said earlier that the son of veteran Palestinian politician Nabil Shaath was on his way to Paris, adding that they were "relieved and overjoyed" at his release after 900 days of "arbitrary detention" by the Egyptians.

But "we regret that they forced Ramy to renounce his Egyptian citizenship as a precondition for his release that should have been unconditional after two and a half years of unjust detention under inhumane conditions," the family said in a statement.

"No one should have to choose between their freedom and their citizenship."

'Happy outcome'

Shaath was released on Thursday evening.

Egyptian authorities later handed him over to a representative of the Palestinian Authority at Cairo airport, where he took a flight to Amman, the Jordanian capital, before heading onward to Paris, his family said.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Twitter saluted the Egyptian decision to free Shaath.

"I share the relief of his wife," he wrote.

"Thank you to everyone who has played a positive role in this happy outcome."

Shaath's wife was deported from Egypt shortly after her husband's arrest in July 2019 on charges of aiding a "terrorist organisation".

In April 2020, Egypt placed him on a terror list alongside 12 other people.

"They charged me with many things," said the freed activist.

"They told me one day, 'You are accused of being part of a terrorist organisation.' And I asked the guy: 'What was the terrorist organisation?' He said: 'Well, we are not going to tell you.'"

In December, five human rights groups had called on Macron to pressure Egypt to release Shaath.

Macron had previously addressed his detention in a news conference in Paris with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in December 2020.

Kamel also released

On Saturday, the family of Ramy Kamel, a Coptic rights activist who spent more than two years in pre-trial detention in Egypt, announced he had been released as well. 

"Rami is among his family... time to celebrate!" his sister Bossi Kamel wrote on Facebook.

Kamel is a founding member of the Maspero Youth Union, a Coptic human rights organisation born in the wake of the 2011 protests.

He was accused of joining a terror group, receiving foreign funding and broadcasting false information. 

But in a November 2021 report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said his arrest "likely represented an effort to prevent him from speaking on the rights of Egyptian minorities at a United Nations conference in Geneva days after his arrest". 

Egypt's space for dissent has been severely restricted since Sisi took office in 2014.

Rights groups say Egypt is holding some 60,000 political prisoners, many facing brutal conditions and overcrowded cells.

Egypt ranks in the lowest group on the Global Public Policy Institute's Academic Freedom Index.