“The question is why was he arrested in the first place? He is a prisoner because of his opinions, and he has lost seven months of his life,“ Abbas’s lawyer Gamal Eid says.
Wael Abbas is an internationally regarded activist and award winning journalist who was imprisoned for seven months. Abbas has documented deteriorating individual freedoms and police brutality in Egypt through his Misr Digital blog, for which he received the prestigious Knight International Journalism Award.
On December 1, 2018, the Giza Criminal Court ordered the conditional release of Wael Abbas, an internationally regarded activist and award-winning journalist, on probation terms that include appearing at a police station twice a week and in court every 45 days. His release was immediately appealed by the state security prosecution, but was upheld on December 3. Abbas was officially released on December 12, 2018.
Abbas was held for six months in pre-trial detention after “heavily armed officers raided [his] home in Cairo overnight and took him away blindfolded to an unknown location,” on May 23, 2018. His arrest occurred amidst a wider government crackdown on journalists and civil society members in Egypt following the re-election of President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi in March 2018. Like many others arrested during this period, Abbas was charged with unfounded allegations of joining a banned group–a likely reference to the Muslim Brotherhood–and spreading false news. Just hours prior to Abbas’s arrest, fellow #SetThemFree prisoner Ismail Alexandrani was sentenced to 10 years in prison by a military court.
For over a decade, Abbas has uncovered police brutality, torture, and corruption on his blog, Misr Digital. Most famously, Abbas published a video in 2006 that led to the conviction of two police officers “in a rare case of security forces members being sentenced for abusing detainees.” For this and his prior work, Abbas was awarded the prestigious Knight International Journalism Award in 2007 and was voted CNN’s 2007 Middle East Person of the Year. Abbas has been detained and harassed multiple times for his work. In addition to this, he has faced several hacking attempts of both social media platforms and email accounts.
With over 350,000 followers, he used Twitter frequently to update his audience on the state of affairs inside of Egypt. Since December 2017, his account has remained suspended without explanation, prompting widespread outrage at the social media platform. In response to his account’s suspension, “Egyptian human rights activist Sherif Azer described Abbas’s account as ‘a live archive to the events of the revolution and till today one of few accounts still documenting human rights abuses in Egypt.’” Prior, Abbas faced account suspensions by Facebook, YouTube, Gmail, and Yahoo Mail–all of which have been restored.