Egypt: After receiving presidential pardon, researcher ‘Santawi’ informed of travel ban

A researcher that has recently received a presidential pardon to end his 18-month detention was informed by airport authorities that he is banned from travel

Researcher Ahmed Samir Santawi was informed by Cairo airport authorities on 27 August that he was banned from travel despite he has recently received a presidential pardon to end his 18-month detention.

Thus, Santawi has joined the ranks of activists and rights defenders that have been exposed to arbitrary travel bans.

Santawy, a graduate student at Central European University, was arrested in January 2021 while back in Egypt on vacation.

He was first handed a multi-year sentence for “publishing false news” by an emergency court in June 2021, and then again in a retrial last month, with the only evidence against him screenshots of Facebook posts criticizing the Egyptian government’s Covid-19 response and human rights violations.

He was then released one month ago upon being pardoned.

Santawy’s family said that authorities had assured Santawy that he would be allowed to leave Egypt and return to Vienna to resume his studies, reported Mada Masr.

Yet when he went to the airport two days ago, officials notified him that he is banned from travel “based on security orders.”

Defense lawyer Ahmed Ragheb, who represents Santawy, said he would file complaints to discover why Santawy is banned from leaving the country.

Santawy was detained under multiple cases but only tried and convicted under one of them.

“Egyptian authorities systematically exploit the absence of a clear regulatory framework governing the application of travel bans,” said Mai El-Sadany, managing director and legal and judicial director of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, last month in a report on the practice.

“Those who learn they are banned from travel and their lawyers often find they have no recourse to challenge the bans or ensure their rights are protected.”

James Lynch, director of FairSquare, added in a separate report, “Arbitrary and open-ended travel bans enable the Egyptian authorities to impose a life-altering system of punishment that is barely visible to anyone except those whose lives they are destroying.”

Continued repression

In the context of the Sisi regime’s repression, journalist Ahmed Subaie was referred to a terrorism court Monday after spending two-and-a-half years in pretrial detention.

Subaie was arrested in February 2020 while performing a funeral prayer for Al-Azhar scholar Mohamed Emara before being charged in Case 1360/2019 with joining a terrorist group, spreading false news, and misusing social media.

He was only able to meet with a lawyer for the first time two years later.

Subaie was previously arrested in 2013 and spent four years behind bars in the Rabaa Dispersal case before finally being acquitted of the same charges he is facing now.

On the other hand, dozens of human rights defenders, politicians, lawyers, and other public figures signed onto a statement two days ago, calling for the release of imprisoned Strong Egypt Party President Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh on health grounds.

Aboul-Fotouh recently told a court that prison authorities are subjecting him to a “slow death” through their continued intentional medical neglect.

The former presidential candidate has faced several health crises during his four-and-a-half years behind bars, most recently when prison authorities refused to bring him to the hospital when he suffered a heart attack earlier this month. 

The signatories, who include several members of the national dialogue’s board of trustees, urged authorities to immediately transfer Aboul-Fotouh to the hospital, warning that he is “at risk of death at any moment.”

An emergency court sentenced Aboul-Fotouh to 15 years in prison in May after more than four years of pretrial detention.

A new report from the Egyptian Front for Human Rights documents how authorities have continued to use emergency courts—even after Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ended the state of emergency last October—to “suppress peaceful opponents and critics in order to keep them in detention as long as possible,” with Aboul-Fotouh and Santawy two of the leading examples.