EGYPT / Detained on November 30, 2013
UPDATE: On January 4, 2017, Ahmed Maher was released from jail after serving a three-year sentence and now remains under strict probation. For the next three years, he is subject to nighttime surveillance and is required to spend 12 hours per day in police custody. At the local police station where he reports for nighttime surveillance, he “[sleeps] in a 250-square-foot, toilet-less cell with up to 17 other men.”
Ahmed Maher is a founder and former general coordinator of the April 6 Youth Movement, an Egyptian political activist group. On November 30, 2013, Maher was arrested on charges that he “took part in an illegal assembly, blocked traffic and called for a protest without obtaining Interior Ministry permission.” After a quick trial, an Egyptian court sentenced him to three years in jail and a fine of 50,000 Egyptian pounds.
The April 6 movement was originally started as a Facebook group in support of textile workers of the city of Mahall al-Kobrahas. It was named after their planned strike date of April 6, 2008. The group quickly acquired thousands of followers and became one of the most prominent youth opposition groups in Egypt. They played a critical role in the uprising on January 25, 2011, for which they were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize later that year.
After the coup, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) ran a sustained propaganda campaign against the April 6 Movement, accusing the group of serving foreign agendas against the Egyptian people’s interests and receiving foreign funds. After years of arrests and harassment, an Egyptian court issued a verdict in April 2014 to ban the April 6 Movement over accusations of espionage and defaming the Egyptian state.
The verdict against Maher has been widely condemned by local human rights groups. In April 2014, Amnesty international called for the Egyptian authorities to unconditionally release Maher. In September 23, 2014, President Barack Obama also called for the release of Maher among other activists around the world.
In January 2015, the Court of Cassation rejected an appeal from Maher and upheld his three-year sentence.