Still responding to the Arab Spring in 2011, many governments in the region have increasingly restricted space for citizens to mobilize and organize. Coupled with severe anti-terrorism measures, many governments impose harsh penalties for speaking out on human rights violations, holding peaceful public gatherings, and questioning authorities and religious teaching. In recent years, an increasing number of political prisoners has been witnessed in Bahrain and Egypt in particular.
Detained on November 29, 2015
UPDATE: On May 22 a military court in Egypt sentenced Ismail Alexandrani to 10-years in prison after the journalist already spent two and a half years in pretrial detention.
Detained on October 21, 2015
Hisham Gaafar is a prominent Egyptian journalist, researcher, and the director of the Mada Foundation for Media Development. On October 21, 2015, police forces stormed Gaafar’s office without a warrant, searched the premises, and arrested Gaafar. The prosecution charged Gaafar with belonging “to a banned group [Muslim Brotherhood] and international bribery.” The Arabic Network For Human Rights Information claimed that his report titled “Strengthening the Democratic Political Sphere in Egypt” led to his detention in October 2015.
Detained March 17, 2011
The Nubian “Dafoof Detainees”
Detained in 2017
Detained on December 18, 2013
UPDATE: On 22 January 2017, after spending three years in jail, he was released and began his probation term. He remains under strict government surveillance. The confining nature of his probation has prevented him from having a wedding and attending his university classes. Mohamed Adel is the media spokesperson and founder of the April 6 Youth Movement. On December 18, 2013, Adel was arrested by Egyptian authorities after they stormed the offices of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR). Adel was volunteering in the organization’s media unit at the time.
On October 10, 2018, the Criminal Chamber of the Fifth Compound Courts Complex ordered the conditional release of Haitham Mohamedeen (also Haytham Mohamadeen), an activist and labor rights lawyer, who was arbitrarily detained for five months. Following the order for his release, Mohamedeen was disappeared from prison by the State Security Prosecution. For 18 days, his whereabouts and condition were not made known to his family or his lawyer.
Front Line Defenders notes that “this only one example of how the State Security Prosecution systematically bypasses judiciary rulings in Egypt; several human rights defenders who were released by court rulings have been disappeared from prisons.” Mohamedeen continues to face judicial harassment from the Egyptian government, requiring him to appear twice weekly to a police station on “precautionary measures.”
Mohamedeen was arrested from his home on May 16, 2018, but his location remained unknown until he was brought before the Supreme State Security Prosecution on May 19, 2018. The prosecution ordered a 15-day detention period while he was investigated for charges of “joining a terrorist organization” and “inciting protests.” Mohamedeen was charged and continues to be harassed under case No. 718/2018—a case brought against 20 individuals involved in protests over a hike in metro fares. Reports note that Mohamedeen did not take part in these protests.
As a vocal activist, Mohamedeen has faced harassment and unwarranted detention by the Egyptian government throughout his lifetime. In 2016, he was arrested alongside 152 other activists and detained for six months for calling for protests over Egypt’s transferal of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. In 2013, he was arbitrarily detained at a military checkpoint while en route to meet with factory workers who requested his legal counsel. He was released after two days without charge or explanation.
Abdulhadi Al Khawaja
Detained March 17, 2011
Sheikh Abdullah Isa Al-Mahroos
Detained August 13, 2010
Detained on November 30, 2013
Detained December 3, 2013
Aya Hijazi and Mohamed Hassanein
Detained on May 1, 2014
UPDATE: On April 16, 2017, Egyptian-American Aya Hijazi and her husband Mohamed Hassanein, the founders of Belady Foundation for Street Children, were found not guilty and released from prison. The foundation was launched in 2013 and focused on rehabilitating Cairo’s street children and broader developmental programs. On May 1, 2014, the organization’s offices were raided and the couple was arrested alongside two volunteers and 17 children who were on the premises at the time. The couple was charged with “child abuse,” “human trafficking,” and “inciting and exploiting children to participate in violent protests,” among other charges.
Detained June 13, 2016
Detained May 11, 2018
Detained May 23, 2018
Released December 12, 2018
Detained on September 22, 2015
In October 2013, Amr Ali was elected as the new head of the April 6 Youth Movement, succeeding founder Ahmed Maher. In September 22, 2015, the security forces arrested Ali in the city of Ashmoun, Monufiya, and transferred him to the National Security Agency for interrogations. In February 29, 2016, Ali was sentenced to three years in jail and a fine of 500 Egyptian pounds for “conspiring to overthrow the government.”