UPDATE: July 15, 2016
On Thursday, July 14, the Bulaq Misdemeanor Court sentenced 10 additional defendants to three years in prison and fined them 100,000 Egyptian pounds (LE) for their participation in the Tiran and Sanafir demonstrations. The defendants were convicted on charges of joining a terrorist organization, spreading false information to disrupt the public order, and inciting protests against state institutions. As of June 22, all protesters who had been initially sentenced—over 150 of them—had seen their prison sentences overturned; however, many were still ordered to pay fines up to LE100,000. While the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) welcomes the acquittal and revocation of sentences for those originally convicted for participating in the April 25 protests, it condemns today’s sentences as part of the Egyptian government’s continued violations of domestic and international obligations to guarantee freedom of expression, assembly, and association. TIMEP reiterates the principle that Egypt’s long-term stability is dependent on a free, functioning political and social climate.
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UPDATE: May 15, 2016
On May 14, 2016, more than 150 people received jail sentences for their participation in peaceful demonstrations protesting the agreement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia that incorporated islands of Tiran and Sanafir into the latter’s maritime borders. The rulings handed down two-year sentences for 51 individuals and sentences of five years and a LE100,000 fine for an additional 101 individuals. The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) condemns these sentences as violations of Egypt’s domestic and international obligations to guarantee freedom of expression, assembly, and association, and TIMEP reiterates the value of peaceful engagement to Egypt’s long-term stability.
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Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) condemn the actions of the Egyptian government taken to suppress peaceful protests planned for April 25 across Egypt, including government raids on the homes of activists and human rights defenders, arbitrary arrests, and the violent dispersal of protests by security forces.
On April 15, thousands of Egyptians took to the streets to reject the recent agreement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia that incorporated the islands of Tiran and Sanafir into Saudi Arabia’s maritime borders. After security forces arrested dozens and fired tear gas to disperse the peaceful demonstrations, organizers set April 25 as the date for a second wave of protests.
In the days leading up to the scheduled protests, security forces arrested at least 90 people in eight different governorates, many of them from local coffee shops. Additionally, the prosecution issued a lengthy list of arrest warrants for human rights defenders and activists, including prominent human rights lawyer Malek Adly who has been integral in representing detained protesters.
On April 25, a heavy security and military presence prevented many of the scheduled peaceful demonstrations from taking place. Meanwhile, pro-government rallies were allowed to occur without interference. The few peaceful protests that went forward and were critical of the government were violently dispersed with teargas. Other large gatherings of activists were raided. Throughout the day, at least 33 foreign and domestic journalists were temporarily detained while covering the demonstrations. At least 239 civilians were reported detained or arrested across the country. While the charges against these persons have yet to be made public, the Egyptian authorities have, in the past, exploited vague and problematic provisions of the Protest Law, Counterterrorism Law, and Penal Code that violate Egypt’s domestic and international obligations to uphold the rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association.
These measures by Egyptian authorities to silence all forms of peaceful dissent occur in a broader and escalating crackdown upon civil society and independent voices, highlighted most starkly by recent government attempts to shut down domestic non-governmental organizations in the “Foreign Funding” case. By stifling civil society organizations and jailing activists, Egypt eliminates any room for peaceful engagement and instead endangers its own long-term stability by fostering an oppressive environment ripe for exploitation by violent extremists.
As a vibrant civil society is a necessary element of a true democracy, Egypt must allow its civil society to flourish and ensure that its citizens enjoy their fundamental rights without question. We call upon the Egyptian authorities to immediately release all peaceful protesters and human rights defenders detained in the events since April 15 and to halt the continuing crackdown.
This statement is also posted on Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’ website here.
The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness of democratic transitions in the Middle East through analysis, advocacy, and action.