On Thursday, Dec. 3, Egyptian authorities freed three human rights activists from Tora Prison who had been behind bars since November.
The activists, belonging to one of the most prominent human rights groups – The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights – had been languishing in jail for allegedly organizing terror and spreading false information. However, many suspect that these charges were falsely leveled against them in retaliation for speaking with foreign delegates against the government’s wishes. Their arrest came amidst growing concern for the human rights track record under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, whose government is reputed to harass and block activists.
President Sisi’s government, which came to power in 2014 after overthrowing Mohamed Morsi, has not only attempted to eliminate its rival – The Muslim Brotherhood – but has also been accused of throttling on political liberty, increasingly targeting liberals, activists, and leftists. Since 2014, more than 1,000 protesters have been killed, with around 3,000 people being sentenced to death. According to data released by Amnesty International, more than 57 people had been executed by the government between October and November of this year, out of which more than 15 were subjugated to what Amnesty International labelled as politically-motivated and “unfair” trials.
Thus, the government unexpectedly releasing Gasser Abdel-Razek, Kareem Ennarah, and Mohamed Basheer, the organization’s executive director, criminal justice director, and administrative manager respectively, came as a surprise. Judicial sources later issued a statement saying, “After the submission of the necessary legal paperwork of registering the group as a non-profit organization, the public prosecution has ordered the release of Gasser Abdel-Razek and members of the Initiative.” However, this in no way marks the end of their ordeal. The charges against the trio haven’t been expunged yet, and – spelling more trouble for the group – a court ruling on Sunday passed an order temporarily freezing their assets.