Renowned human rights activist Hossam Bahgat (C) leaves the courtroom in Cairo as an Egyptian court examines a request to issue a travel ban and freeze the assets of him and a fellow rights activist on April 20, 2016. (MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP via Getty Images)

TIMEP Gravely Concerned About the Referral of Prominent Egyptian Human Rights Defender to Trial

TIMEP is gravely concerned about the referral of Mr. Hossam Bahgat, Executive Director of the Egyptian Initiative of Personal Rights (EIPR), to trial. He faces charges of insulting a state body, spreading false rumors stating that the electoral results were rigged, and using social media to commit crimes—charges in response to a 2020 tweet critical of the National Elections Authority head amid serious reports of electoral fraud. Mr. Bahgat’s trial is set to begin on September 7, 2021.

These charges are emblematic of the politicization of the judicial apparatus to enforce an escalating crackdown on human rights defenders and civil society, which are pillars of transparency, rule of law, and good governance. Furthermore, this step occurs as part of a sustained campaign in which the Egyptian government has sought to curb and control the free flow of information and knowledge, jailing researchers, academics, and scholars, many of whom study, work, and are affiliated with prominent institutions around the globe. 

This is not the first time that members of EIPR have come under attack by Egyptian authorities. In November 2020, three members of the organization were arrested; though they were ultimately released following a global campaign of solidarity and condemnation, their assets were frozen. In February 2020, academic and EIPR researcher Patrick George Zaki was arrested in a separate case when returning home to visit his family; he remains in pretrial detention today.

Mr. Bahgat has himself been the subject of legal action for his human rights work and journalism on two earlier occasions. He was previously charged with a military misdemeanor over an investigation he published about a military court case, and he is a defendant in the notable Foreign Funding Case (Case No. 173/2011); both cases remain open to date. Mr. Bahgat has been under travel ban for the last five years, and his assets have been frozen “pending investigations.”