15-year prison term for Egyptian veteran human rights defender


Veteran human rights defender Bahey el-din Hassan has been sentenced in absentia by a Cairo Criminal Court to 15 years in prison for his tweets, human rights organisations said on Friday.

Rights groups said the conviction of Mr. Hassan, director and co-founder of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), over the abusive charges of “publishing false news” and “insulting the judiciary” is a new low for the Egyptian judiciary.

This ruling constitutes the latest reprisal against Mr. Hassan for his work promoting human rights in Egypt.

In September 2019, a court also sentenced him in absentia to three years in prison and a 20,000 EGP (US$1,260 USD) fine in relation to a tweet in which he criticized the Egyptian public prosecution.

Mr. Hassan has been living abroad since he went in self-exile in 2014.

In 2018, he received death threats from an Egyptian TV show host after seven Egyptian independent human rights groups, including CIHRS, sent a memo to the UN Secretary-General regarding the presidential elections in Egypt.

The latest ruling cites several of Mr. Hassan’s tweets as evidence against him for “insulting the judiciary” and “publishing false information that could undermine public security, its national and economic interests”.

In these tweets, he criticised torture and lack of judicial independence, and mentioned the call for justice for the Italian student Giulio Regeni, who was killed in Cairo in January 2016, after being abducted and tortured.

Under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egyptian authorities have been cracking down on human rights organisations and activists in an unprecedented fashion.

Dozens have faced arrest, enforced disappearance, torture, ill-treatment, and judicial harassment, including abusive investigations, travel bans, and asset freezes.

In addition, the Egyptian authorities have increasingly been targeting human rights defenders now in exile, including by harassing and arresting their family members inside Egypt in a clear pattern of intimidation and reprisals for their human rights work.

Bahey el-din Hassan, one of the founding members of the human rights movement in Egypt and the Arab region, is director and co-founder of CIHRS and a member of the boards and advisory committees of several international human rights organisations. (Source: HRW)