Egypt: Activists Mohamed Adel and Mahmoud Hussein face state persecution

The continued persecution of activists brings into question the legitimacy of claims made by Egypt’s Abdel Fatah al-Sisi that the state is trying to engage with the opposition through the so-called national dialogue initiated earlier this year.

The Egyptian government continues its persecution of activists and critics despite the so-called national dialogue initiated earlier this year to address the political and economic issues raised by the opposition. On Sunday, September 3, political activist Mohamed Adel, one of the founders of the April 6 movement, was sentenced to four years in prison by an Egyptian court on charges of spreading “false news.”

Adel has already spent years in prison in pre-trial detention and faced security surveillance, his friend and activist Mahmoud Hashem told Peoples Dispatch.

According to Manassa News, Adel faces two more charges dating back to 2018 in similar cases. He has been targeted by the state for criticizing the government’s policies related to a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as well as the provision of death penalty in the country.

As part of their conditions for participating in the national dialogue, the Civic Democratic Movement had included Adel’s name in a list of activists facing state persecution and demanded its end.

The Sisi regime first came to power in Egypt through a military coup in 2013 and has since unleashed large-scale persecution of human rights activists, political opponents, journalists, and lawyers for being critical of its policies. According to various estimates, over 50,000 such activists have been imprisoned in various Egyptian jails.  

Adel’s family members launched a signature campaign on Saturday demanding his release from prison. The petition has already garnered hundreds of signatures. 

Egypt’s Bread and Freedom party also supported the call for Adel’s release calling his conviction a “new escalation that is unacceptable and incomprehensible.” The party alleged that Adel’s conviction is a sign that the Egyptian government is not serious about the so-called National Dialogue and promised political reforms.

Another activist, Mahmoud Hussein, was re-arrested on his return to Cairo last Wednesday on the basis of a judgment delivered against him in absentia. He is called “the t-shirt detainee” as he was detained by authorities for wearing a t-shirt with the slogan “A Nation Without Torture” on the third anniversary of the 2011 popular uprising in Egypt. At the time, Hussein was just 19 years old.

According to his lawyer, activist Khalid Ali, Hussein was first taken to the October Garden Police Station after his arrest in Cairo and then moved to the Ayat police station in Giza, after which his friends and families lost contact with him.

His family has expressed concerns about his health and physical safety as he has undergone a couple of surgeries recently.

The Egyptian authorities also raided Hussein’s family house in Obour city on Saturday, according to Mada Masr.