The undersigned organizations strongly condemn the detention of researcher and journalist Ismail Alexandrani, upon his return to Egypt from Germany on Sunday, November 29, at 2 pm at the Hurghada airport, which constitutes a violation and restriction of his freedom. We demand his immediate, unconditional release and hold the authorities responsible for his safe return to his family.
Alexandrani was held for more than ten hours at the airport security office while being repeatedly promised that he would be released shortly. He was then transferred to Homeland Security, where he was detained until being brought before the State Security Prosecution in the Fifth Settlement in Cairo on Tuesday morning. He was questioned in the presence of attorneys for more than eight hours. On Tuesday evening, he was remanded to custody for 15 days pending investigation.
The State Security Prosecution brought three charges against Alexandrani:
1) joining a group established in violation of the law with the purpose of advocating the obstruction of provisions of the constitution and laws, preventing state institutions and public authorities from performing their duties, assaulting the personal freedom of citizens and other civil liberties and rights guaranteed by the constitution and law, and harming national unity and social peace; terrorism was among the methods used by this group to realize and execute their purposes;
2) promoting the purposes of the group named in the previous charge, with knowledge of what it advocates; and
3) intentionally disseminating false news, information, and rumors liable to disturb public security, alarm people, and harm public interests.
Alexandrani denied these charges, saying that all his writings in question are of a journalistic nature and contain news and information related to the events they discuss. He added that he had stopped publishing a few months before he travelled. The last piece he published was in September 2014 on the al-Badil website.
The prosecution examined Alexandrani’s laptop, mobile phone, and digital files, as well as the contents of his wallet, including cards belonging to friends, colleagues, and various journalists and academic contacts. His laptop, mobile phone, and some personal belongings were seized and taken into evidence. His defense counsel reserved the right to file formal and procedural arguments pending the conclusion of
questioning and asked for Alexandrani’s release with any guarantee required by the prosecution given the lack of grounds for pretrial detention in his case. Nevertheless, the prosecution ordered remand.
This incident is yet another demonstration of the ongoing persecution of opposition journalists and others with dissident opinions. It is a violation and restriction of freedom of thought and expression, and it tramples on all international rights and standards for the protection of freedom of the press and expression; it also contravenes the Egyptian constitution. It is neither the first nor likely the last incident of its kind. Journalist and researcher Hossam Bahgat was recently questioned by military authorities, and numerous journalists and persons of conscience have been languishing in prisons for months and years in pretrial detention. Others have been forcibly disappeared with no information given to their families about their condition or whereabouts.
Ismail Alexandrani is a researcher and writer who has published articles and studies in numerous international and regional outlets. He specializes in Sinai affairs and has written frequently about Islamist movements in the region. Alexandrani was previously a volunteer at the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights in 2014 and a visiting Arab journalist fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Middle East Program. He is a recipient the Hany Darweesh Award for exceptional essay. In 2009, he won the Global Youth Essay on Democracy Contest and was later selected as a member of the panel awarding the prize.
The undersigned organizations demand the release of Alexandrani and all prisoners of conscience. We demand the opening of the public political sphere to free expression of opinion and an end to the systematic silencing of opinion, which will only lead us further into a dark tunnel whose end no one knows. This is the only way out of the crisis that has afflicted our country and led to prisons filled with people holding dissident opinions and views.
1. Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights
2. Andalus Center for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies
3. Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
4. Land Center for Human Rights
5. Nazra for Feminist Studies
6. Nadim Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture
7. National Community for Human Rights and Law
8. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
9. Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance
10. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
11. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
12. New Woman Foundation
13. Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms
14. Habi Center for Environmental Rights