Release Amal Fathy, victim of the state’s widening to silence human rights defenders
The undersigned rights organizations condemn Amal Fathy’s referral to trial in case no. 7991/2018. Fathy is the wife of human rights defender Mohamed Lotfy, the director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF). The Maadi Misdemeanor Court held the first hearing in her trial this morning, August 11, 2018, and adjourned the case until next month, on September 8th. We believe the charges brought against Fathy, both in the current case and in case no. 621/2018, for which she remains in custody pending investigation, have no validity and are emblematic of the Egyptian state’s ruthless prosecution of human rights defenders and rights organizations. This prosecution has widened to targeting family members of human rights defenders.
Amal Fathy’s hearing this morning is the latest development in a case that began when she posted a video on her personal Facebook account decrying sexual harassment she experienced in Egypt. Instead of opening an investigation and bringing Fathy’s harasser to justice, security and police authorities arrested her on May 11th, 2018. She was questioned on charges of abusing a means of communication and publishing a video containing false news likely to disturb the public peace. During her initial questioning, she was referred to the High State Security Prosecution on a myriad of charges typically used to silence human rights defenders, including: joining a terrorist group, using a website with the purpose of promoting ideas and beliefs advocating the commission of terrorist acts, intentionally disseminating false news and rumors likely to disturb public security, and harming the public interest. She was being held in prison on these State Security charges when her initial case, no. 7991/2018, was brought to trial this morning.
Amal Fathy endured intense duress during her time in prison. She was threatened with violence, a long- term prison sentence, and the loss of her son, with the intention of coercing information from her about her husband Lotfy’s rights work. Her physical and mental health have severely deteriorated while in detention, causing temporary paralysis of her left leg, according to a prison doctor. The doctor recommended granting the defense counsel’s request to refer her to a specialist after her condition deteriorated to an alarming, perhaps irreparable, degree.
The human rights work of Amal Fathy’s husband Mohamed Lotfy at the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms likely provides the primary impetus behind the extreme, unjust prosecution of Amal Fathy. The ECRF is a relatively new organization focusing on the documenting human rights abuses, particularly torture and enforced disappearance. The organization received the Freedom of Expression award from the Index on Censorship.
The ECRF has faced persistent harassment since its founding in 2013. More than once, state authorities have attempted to seal its offices and confiscate the group’s computers. Despite the ECRF’s attempts to register under the current repressive NGO law, the security authorities have denied its application. One of the organization’s founders, human rights defender Ahmed Abdullah, was arrested and detained for several weeks in 2016; and numerous threats have been directed at ECRF employees and staff. In addition to the ECRF’s general human rights work, the Egyptian state is likely targeting the organization for representing the family of Giulio Regeni, the Italian doctoral student who was abducted and tortured to death in Egypt in 2016.
The Egyptian state’s prosecution of Amal Fathy is part of its relentless campaign to intimidate and silence those who speak out against its human rights abuses and other injustices. In Amal’s case, the state is escalating this campaign to acute levels by targeting family members of human rights defenders though fabricated charges and malicious prosecution, with the intent of coercing those defenders into discontinuing their work. In its actions, the state has lowered itself to the level of a criminal gang, using hostages as leverage. Egypt must release Amal Fathy immediately or risk only further isolating itself by sullying its already abysmal human rights record.
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE)
The Freedom Initiative
Committee for Justice
Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms (ACRF)
Egyptian Front for Human Rights