Urgent Action Update: STUDENT UNJUSTLY CONVICTED BY SPECIAL COURT (Egypt: UA 15.21)
July 27, 2022
On July 4, 2022, a Misdemeanours Emergency State Security Court (ESSC) convicted Egyptian researcher Ahmed Samir Santawy of spreading “false news” and sentenced him to three years imprisonment. His conviction is based solely on social media posts criticizing human rights violations in Egypt and the state’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Verdicts by ESSCs cannot be appealed. Ahmed Samir Santawy is a prisoner of conscience, who has been arbitrarily detained since February 2021, and he should be immediately and unconditionally released.
Please take action as-soon-as possible. This Urgent Action expires on September 21, 2022.
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President Abdelfattah al-Sisi
Office of the President
Al Ittihadia Palace – Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt
Fax +202 2391 1441
Email: [email protected]
I am writing to you about the unjust imprisonment of researcher and anthropology master’s student Ahmed Samir Santawy, who was convicted on July 4, 2022, on retrial by a Misdemeanours Emergency State Security Court (ESSC) of spreading “false news to undermine the state, its national interests and public order and spread panic among the people”, the same charge of which he was convicted by an ESSC in his initial trial on June 22, 2021. The court reduced his prison sentence from four to three years’ imprisonment. Proceedings in front of the ESSCs are inherently unfair and its verdicts cannot be appealed, they are only subject to authorization by the president.
After President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordered Ahmed Samir Santawy’s retrial on February 16, 2022, a new trial started on February 21, 2022, again in front of an ESSC. His right to a fair trial was violated throughout both proceedings, including his right to have the conviction and sentence reviewed by a higher tribunal and to have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, since his lawyers were not allowed to meet with him in private throughout the pre-trial and trial proceedings. His conviction on retrial is solely based on social media posts criticizing human rights violations in Egyptian prisons and the state’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic that he denied writing. Regardless of the author of the posts, criminalizing the dissemination of information based on vague concepts such as “false news” is contrary to the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the Egyptian constitution and international human rights law.
Ahmed Samir Santawy is held in Mazraet Tora prison, part of the Tora Prison Complex south of Cairo, in a small windowless cell he shares with another prisoner. When his family last saw him on July 16, 2022, he complained of a high fever and recurrent vomiting for days, amid reports about the renewed spread of COVID-19 in the prison and the closure of the prison hospital. Amnesty International learned from informed sources that authorities have not transferred him, or other ill prisoners held in the Tora Prison Complex, to outside hospitals in recent weeks.
I urge you to quash Ahmed Samir Santawy’s conviction and sentence and release him immediately and unconditionally as he is a prisoner of conscience held solely for peacefully exercising his human rights. Pending his release, he must be granted access to his family, lawyers and any healthcare he may require, including outside prison if necessary.