Egypt / Detained September 16, 2023
On September 16, 2023, an Egyptian court sentenced Hisham Kassem, a prominent publisher and democracy advocate, to six months in prison over charges that stemmed from an online spat with the former Minister of Manpower, Kamal Abu Eita, and grew to include allegations of verbal assault against police officers.
The Egyptian authorities arrested Mr. Kassem in August after being summoned to testify in a defamation case filed against him by the former Minister of Manpower, accusing Mr. Kassem of insult and slander. After refusing to pay bail of 5,000 Egyptian pounds, Mr. Kassem was referred to al-Sayeda Zeinab police station to be taken into custody at which time officers accused him of verbal assault and issued formal charges as part of the case against him.
Mr. Kassem currently serves as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Free Movement in Egypt. Previously, Mr. Kassem served as the publisher of Al-Masry Al-Youm (known in English as “Egypt Independent”), an independent newspaper in Egypt, and was also a member of the World Movement for Democracy’s Steering Committee.
The World Movement for Democracy stands in solidarity with Hisham Kassem and calls for his immediate release.
AZERBAIJAN / Detained July 23, 2023
On July 23, 2023, world-renowned economist and scholar Dr. Gubad Ibadoghlu of Azerbaijan was arrested. Dr. Ibadoghlu and his wife, Irada Bayramova, were brutally attacked outside Baku, Azerbaijan. Twenty people, dressed in civilian clothes, rammed into the car the couple was driving and proceeded to beat them both publicly. Both were then taken into police custody, with Irada Bayramova released later that day. Since then, the Azerbaijani authorities have charged Dr. Ibadoghlu with a variety of crimes, including counterfeiting money and accused him of working with an organization connected to Fethullah Gülen, who the Turkish government considers a terrorist. Dr. Ibadoghlu remains in custody with unreliable access to his diabetes medication and limited contact with his lawyer. His current pretrial detention is set to last for four months, with current charges potentially resulting in a maximum of 12 years of prison.
The charges against Dr. Ibadoghlu are spurious and his detention is meant to silence activities the regime believes threatens its kleptocratic holdings and to send a chilling message to Azerbaijan’s already fragile civil society and independent media.
Dr. Ibadoghlu serves as the chairman of the Azerbaijan Democracy and Prosperity Movement, which was formed in 2014, but has been refused official status as a political party by the Azerbaijani government. Notably, in June 2023, he announced the formation of the Azerbaijani Youth Education Foundation in the UK, an organization meant to support the creation of a new generation of Azerbaijani professionals.
The World Movement for Democracy joins the growing international call for the immediate release of Dr. Ibadoghlu.