Egypt: Researcher “A.S. Santawy” to be retried for spreading false information

Researcher Ahmed Samir Santawy will face a retrial on Monday after his unjust four-year sentence for allegedly spreading false information about Egypt’s domestic situation while abroad was annulled.

The four-year prison sentence handed down last June against researcher Ahmed Samir Santawy for allegedly spreading false information about Egypt’s domestic situation while abroad was annulled on February 16, meaning he will face a retrial.

Santawy, a graduate student at the Central European University whose research focuses on women’s rights in Egypt, was arrested one year ago, shortly after his arrival in Egypt from Vienna. He was forcibly disappeared for five days, tortured, and eventually convicted in an unfair emergency court.

He soon launched a 40-day hunger strike to protest his unjust conviction, which POMED and other rights organizations noted was “based solely on social media posts criticizing human rights violations in Egypt and the state’s mishandling of the pandemic.”

Santawy’s retrial—again before an emergency court—will begin on February 21. The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms called on Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to follow up the cancellation of Santawy’s sentence by annulling the convictions of six others—former politician Ziad El-Elaimy, journalists Hisham Fouad and Hossam Moanis, human rights lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer, activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, and blogger Mohamed “Oxygen” Ibrahim—who are being unfairly held behind bars.

The decision to annul Santawy’s original verdict was announced the same day that al-Sisi met in Brussels with Belgium’s King Philippe, who had been facing calls from Santawy’s Belgian partner, Souheila Yildiz, to press al-Sisi for Santawy’s release.

To underline that point, Yildiz and other activists held a rally outside of the royal palace as the meeting—part of al-Sisi’s trip to Belgium for the sixth African Union-European Union (AU-EU) summit—took place.

Yildiz said, “My partner Ahmed Samir has been in prison for one year now, and we want him free. I have been contacted by the lawmakers here in Belgium, and they all assured us that our King Philippe would address his release with Sisi. That is what we expect from him. We hope that will lead my partner to be here with us very soon.”

Also present at the Amnesty International-organized protest were newly released activist Ramy Shaath and his wife, Celine Lebrun Shaath, who led the successful international campaign for his release. The former stated, “​​I am here today to ask the leaders of the European Union to speak out about human rights violations in Egypt. I ask them to be clear and not to accept this.” His appeal followed similar calls from human rights organizations in Egypt and abroad.

Belgium’s king and prime minister both met with al-Sisi, as did the CEO of Belgian defense company John Cockerill and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Von der Leyen also revealed that the EU has spoken with Egypt, along with five other countries, about increasing gas and liquefied natural gas deliveries to Europe in the event of a disruption from Russia.

After European Parliament President Roberta Metsola praised a “very good meeting” with the Egyptian leader, fellow Member of European Parliament Hannah Neumann added that “we reiterate our call to release all political prisoners, stop branding human rights defenders as terrorists, and demand [that al-Sisi] ensure that political freedoms and women’s rights are fully guaranteed.”