Urgent Action Update: Detained Rights Lawyer Accused of Terrorism (Egypt: UA 131.19)
September 10, 2020
On 30 August 2020, the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) interrogated arbitrarily detained human rights lawyer and activist, Mahienour el-Masry, over charges of “joining a terrorist organisation” as part of the recently opened case No. 855/2020.
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Public Prosecutor Hamada al-Sawi
Office of the Public Prosecutor
Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt
Fax: +202 2577 4716
Ambassador Yasser Reda Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
3521 International Ct NW, Washington DC 20008
Phone: 202 895 5400 I Fax: 202 244 5131
Email: [email protected]
Salutation: Dear Ambassador
I am writing to raise our concerns about the ongoing arbitrary detention of human rights lawyer and activist, Mahienour el-Masry. Amnesty International considers her to be a prisoner of conscience, detained since 22 September 2019, solely for her peaceful work defending victims of human rights violations.
On 30 August 2020, Mahienour was brought in front of the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) to face questioning over investigations into a new case (No. 855/2020). She was initially accused of “joining a terrorist organization”, “releasing and spreading false rumors” and “the misuse of communication platforms”. Her lawyers told Amnesty International that the SSSP prosecutor initially alleged that Mahienour was communicating with individuals outside prison to spread rumors and false news, claiming that she was able to do so while exercising in the prison courtyard and during court sessions and appearances at the prosecution’s office. Her lawyers argued that the accusations were baseless given that the defendant, like other detainees, has been cut off from the outside world from 10 March to 22 August 2020 due to the authorities’ suspension of prison visits citing COVID-19 fears. At the end of the interrogation, the SSSP ordered her detention for 15 days, pending investigations on the charge of “joining a terrorist organization”, and dropped the other charges.
The Ministry of Interior resumed prison visits on 22 August 2020, with some restrictions in place. On 5 September 2020, Mahienour’s mother was allowed to visit her in al-Qanater Prison. The visit took place in the office of the head of investigations in his and another officer’s presence. Mahienour’s mother said that she was in good health.
I ask you to immediately and unconditionally release Mahienour el-Masry and drop all charges against her. Pending her release, I urge you to ensure that she is provided with means to regularly communicate with her family and lawyers privately. I finally urge the Egyptian authorities to immediately release all those detained solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly and take measures to protect the health of all prisoners amid the COVID-19 pandemic.