Egyptian authorities have added the former presidential candidate and head of the Strong Egypt Party, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, to a new case, just days before the legal period of his remand was set to expire and nearly two years after his arrest in mid-February 2018. According to human rights sources, Fotouh was charged under case No. 1781 of 2019, on charges of “assuming leadership in a terrorist group,” based on investigations carried out by the Interior Ministry’s National Security Agency. Under the new case Fotouh is accused of ” joining a group [which] violated the provisions of the law, and publishing false news about the political and economic conditions in the country with the intention of disturbing public peace.” With this Fotouh has entered Egypt’s revolving door practice of reimprisoning detainees. Fotouh’s deputy Muhammad al-Qassas has also been added to a new case despite a decision to release him on December 8, after he spent two years in solitary confinement. Lawyer and former presidential candidate Khaled Ali has said that Fotouh refused to answer questions when interrogated about the new case, and to sign the prosecution’s report. When investigators asked why, he replied: “The reason is injustice and fabrication. I don’t want anything, I am not complaining to anyone, I only complain to God.” Ali said on Facebook: “Since the maximum period of pre-trial detention is two years, it was necessary to issue a decision to release him before February 18, but today he has become subjected to a new investigation and a new case.”
The Court of Cassation ruled last Saturday to accept an appeal against a ruling which placed Fotouh, his son, and six others on a list of terrorists. Fotouh has been in pre-trial detention since February 14, 2018, in solitary confinement in al-Mazraa, pending case No. 440 of 2018. He was arrested on his return from London after an interview with Al Jazeera in which he criticised President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi before his re-election in March 2018. Two weeks ago, eight human rights organisations issued a statement denouncing the reimprisonment of political activists, human rights activists, and journalists after the end of their prison terms.
The signatory organisations are the Cairo Centre for Human Rights Studies, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, the Egyptian Front for Human Rights, the Nadim Centre, Community for Justice, the Freedom Initiative, the Belady Centre for Rights and Liberties, and the Freedom of Thought and Expression Foundation. The organisations condemned the conduct of the Supreme State Security Prosecution over its use of renewed arbitrary detention in which it relied on “absurd investigations by security services,” to imprison people who it had previously decided to release. The revolving door policy is carried out in two ways. The first is by freeing activists for weeks or months and then arresting them again on new cases but with the same charges, according to the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms. The second is by issuing decisions to release the detainees but then forcibly disappearing them inside the National Security Service or police station before they reappear again on a new case with the same or slightly altered charges.