Egypt: Blogger and Bedouin rights activist, jailed without trial since 2007, has been released

Press Release
July 14, 2010

Egypt: Blogger and Bedouin rights activist, jailed without trial since 2007, has been released

Amnesty International Welcomes Release of Egyptian Blogger and Bedouin Rights Activist Who Was Jailed Without Trial Since 2007

Human Rights Organization, Which Waged Campaign for the Release of Musaad Abu Fagr, Calls on Egypt to Release Other Prisoners of Conscience

July 14, 2010

Amnesty International today welcomed the release of an Egyptian Bedouin blogger and activist, who was held in prison without trial for almost three years, accused of inciting protests against the demolition of thousands of homes in the Sinai Peninsula.

Musaad Suliman Hassan Hussein, also known by his pen name Musaad Abu Fagr, was released from Abu Zaabal Prison near Cairo on Tuesday. He had been held under emergency laws, despite repeated court rulings ordering his release.

Amnesty International activists in the United States and worldwide campaigned for his release and Musaad Abu Fagr thanked the organization for its commitment to obtaining his freedom. "Amnesty International's support is one of the reasons that I was released," he said. "Your messages gave me a sense of solidarity."

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Program, said Musaad Abu Fagr's release was welcome but called on Egyptian authorities to release all other prisoners of conscience still languishing in administrative detention solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression.

Musaad Abu Fagr was arrested on December 26, 2007 following demonstrations led by the Bedouin rights movement he co-founded called Wedna Na'ish (We Want to Live). He was accused of "inciting others to protest," "resisting the authorities" and "assaulting public officers during the exercise of their duties."

During the 2007 demonstrations, several thousand protesters clashed violently with the security forces in the village of al-Masoura, between the north Sinai towns of Rafah and al-Arish near the border with the Gaza Strip.

The demonstrators were also demanding permits to build houses, ownership of the farmland they worked and the release of Bedouin who had been detained without charge or trial after bomb attacks in Taba, Sharm al-Sheikh and Dahab between 2004 and 2006.

Following his arrest in December 2007, Musaad Abu Fagr was held at Borg al-Arab Prison near Alexandria.

In 2008, his lawyers appealed his being held in prison while awaiting trial. An appeals court ordered his released but the Ministry of Interior issued an administrative order to detain him further, using powers under the state of emergency that has been in force in Egypt since 1981.

His lawyers lodged a complaint with the Supreme (Emergency) State Security Court, which ordered his release.

The Ministry of Interior appealed again and on May 12, 2008 another court confirmed the release order. However, Musaad Abu Fagr was issued with another administrative detention order.

In total, Musaad Abu Fagr's lawyers obtained 18 court orders for his release but each time Musaad Abu Fagr was served with another administrative detention order.

"It is regrettable that the authorities chose to ignore the numerous court decisions ordering the release of Musaad Abu Fagr ," said Amnesty International's Sahraoui.

While in prison, Musaad Abu Fagr developed an abscess on his foot as a result of unsanitary conditions.

Prison authorities provided no medical treatment but a fellow inmate, a doctor, performed surgery -- without anasthesia -- and Musaad Abu Fagr recovered.