Director of human rights organisation arrested after meeting with European ambassadors

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The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) has said that security forces arrested its executive director, Mohamed Bashir, from his home on Sunday and charged him with joining a terror group and spreading false news.

In a statement, the initiative added that in an unprecedented escalation that the EIPR had not encountered throughout its work, security forces went to Bashir’s house at dawn on Sunday and detained him, before he appeared at the Supreme State Security Prosecution. According to the statement, the authorities charged Bashir with charges including joining a terrorist group with knowledge of its objectives, spreading false news, and committing a crime of financing terrorism, charges that are often directed against opponents.

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights said that Bashir was asked about the organisation’s work and about a visit conducted by some European ambassadors in its headquarters in Cairo earlier this month, to discuss ways to support human rights in Egypt and around the world. The prosecution imprisoned Bashir for 15 days with the completion of the investigation at a later time, according to the organisation, which called on the authorities to release him immediately.

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, in its statement, considered the imprisonment of Bashir a new case of targeting and intimidation of human rights workers. Under Egyptian law, pretrial detention can last up to two years, but the period is often extended further. Bashir is among the lawyers, journalists, and human rights activists charged in another case, known as Case 855 of 2020. There was no comment from the Egyptian Interior Ministry on the arrest of Bashir.

Human rights organisations estimate that about 60,000 detainees in Egypt are imprisoned for political reasons. These include secular activists, journalists, lawyers, academics, and Islamists who have been arrested since the military overthrew the elected president, Mohamed Morsi, in 2013.