Egyptian Authorities End Two-Year Pre-Trial Detention of Renowned Human Rights Defender
01/10/2022 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) –Egyptian authorities released Coptic Christian activist Ramy Kamel on January 8 after being held in pre-trial detention for two years. Kamel was originally detained in November 2019 because of his journalism and human rights activism on behalf of Egypt’s Coptic Christian community.
“International Christian Concern (ICC) welcomes the release of Ramy resulting from years of advocacy on his behalf. Despite this victory, we cannot ignore the fact that Egypt has a long record of pursuing superficial human rights changes in an attempt to manage its international reputation. But Egypt’s human rights record is equally clear: the situation is very bad. And for Christians, who are already forced to live on the edge of society, the consequences can be devastating,” ICC President Jeff King said.
ICC’s own research shows that Egyptian Christians are increasingly living on the extreme margins of society. Coptic Christians are often subjected to blasphemy charges, mob attacks, kidnapping, extortion, sexual assault, and other types of violence simply because openly living their faith is considered offensive to their neighbors.
Ramy Kamel is part of an ever-dwindling number of local public activists who work to raise awareness about these types of problems.
Ramy was originally arrested on two charges. The first was that he broadcast false information after sharing videos relating to how churches in Egypt are often targeted with mob violence. The second charge was that he received foreign funding because he had worked with the United Nations Forum on Minority Issues. He was planning to attend a Geneva conference to speak about the challenges facing Christians in Egypt.
Egypt’s Human Rights Record
ICC and several other organizations in Washington have worked tirelessly since Ramy’s arrest to continually inform the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom regarding his case. Last year, ICC and Coptic Solidarity sent a letter to the Biden administration urging them to engage with their Egyptian counterparts to secure his release.
Under President Sisi’s leadership, Egypt’s human rights record has deteriorated significantly. The government specifically targets anyone who speaks about these issues publicly. Egypt ranks 166 out of 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index. Human Rights Watch warned last year that “The Egyptian government routinely denies and distorts the truth about the ongoing human rights crisis in Egypt, despite the scale and severity of human rights violations.”
The severe community aggression and pressure experienced by Copts are often dismissed and validated by the government, as evident in President Sisi’s 2020 comments that “We (Muslims) have the right for our feelings not to be hurt… if some have the freedom to express what is in their thoughts, I imagine that this stops when it comes to offending the feelings of more than 1.5 billion people.”
A Common Occurrence
Ramy’s long detention is not the only instance of the Egyptian government attempting to silence dissent. Last week, FBI agents arrested an Egyptian man in New York who had been informing Egyptian officials of President Sisi’s opponents living in the United States as part of a concerted effort by Egypt to silence those who speak out against their human rights record.
The release of Ramy Kamel occurs parallel to the release of several other high-profile prisoners of conscience, reflecting an attempt by the Egyptian authorities to manage international pressure regarding the country’s human rights situation.
Patrick Zaki was held in pretrial detain for 22 months before Egypt’s courts granted him conditional release in December 2021. Zaki’s trial is set to continue on February 1 on charges of spreading false news regarding an article detailing the discrimination he faced as a Coptic Christian. For Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, the worsening human rights situation has had severe implications.
Christians employed by malicious Muslims are subject to blasphemy and false accusations.
Such is the case of Abanoub, employed by the mayor as a village guard. A few days after a disagreement with the mayor regarding shift work, someone hacked Abanoub’s Facebook and posted a photo of a sheep and Mohammed. The incident incited community outrage, which sought to burn the Copt’s home and kill his sons. Abanoub has spent nearly two and a half years imprisoned on blasphemy charges, and it is unclear when he will be released.
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