• Press Release

Egypt steps up vicious onslaught against NGOs with arrest of minority rights defender

May 19, 2016

Prominent Egyptian human rights defender, Mina Thabet, Director of the Minority and Religious Groups Department at the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), was arrested today as the government escalates its assault on Egypt’s NGO community. 

He was seized during a raid on his home in Cairo in the early hours of this morning by members of the Egyptian National Security Agency, who ill-treated him and his family members and refused to disclose his place of detention.

“Mina Thabet is a pillar of Egypt’s human rights community. He has tirelessly worked to defend the rights of minority groups, including Coptic Christians whom the government has suppressed for decades. His arrest is a flagrant attack against freedom of expression and association and provides damning proof of the Egyptian authorities’ vindictive resolve to silence anyone who dares to challenge the government’s narrative,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, interim Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

“Mina Thabet is the latest of the many NGO workers targeted by the government for detention or intimidation. These are peaceful activists who must be allowed to carry out their work without fear of harassment or even imprisonment. The continuing onslaught against peaceful activists suggests the Egyptian authorities are ruthlessly determined to paralyze the country’s NGO community and render it utterly defunct.

“On the international stage Egypt has justified its crackdown under the guise of fighting against terrorism, but they are using this as cover to treat peaceful human rights workers and government critics as criminals. It is critical that the international community takes a stand and urgently calls on Egypt to end its persecution of peaceful activists immediately.”

According to earlier information from the East Cairo Prosecutor office, Thabet will face charges based on the Counterterrorism and Protest laws for participating in peaceful protests on April 25 against Egypt’s decision to transfer control of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

Thabet’s detention comes just a few weeks after the arrest of Ahmed Abdullah, the Director of ECRF, who was seized from his home on April 25. He faces a string of charges under the Counterterrorism and Protest laws, including inciting protests on April 25 and attempting to overthrow the government.

Thabet has worked to defend the rights of minority groups, specifically Coptic Christians, since the 2011 uprising. He is a prisoner of conscience detained solely for exercising his rights to freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association and he must be released immediately and unconditionally with all charges against him dropped.