The spokesman of the US Department of State Ned Price said on Tuesday that the USA is looking into reports about the detention of relatives of the American-Egyptian human rights defender Mohamed Soltan. “We have and we continue to engage the Egyptian government on human rights concerns, and we take seriously all allegations of arbitrary arrest or detention,” said Price.
A statement issued by the Freedom Initiative, the human rights organisation established by Soltan, said that six members of Soltan’s family were arrested on Sunday by Egyptian secret police. “Soltan is calling attention to the impunity and disregard for human rights under the current Egyptian regime. Now the Egyptian regime is arresting his relatives to try to intimidate him into silence,” said Eric Lewis, Soltan’s lawyer. Lewis added that Egyptian security forces raided the homes of Soltan’s relatives last year.
Soltan, who lives in Virginia, was arrested in August 2013 in Egypt and accused of crimes including “spreading false information” before being released in 2015. He has sued the Egyptian ex-Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi in the US district court accusing him of being responsible for detaining and torturing him. The Egyptian regime had demanded immunity for el-Beblawi, but the new American administration suspended this immunity whilst they investigated the case.
Over the past few years, the Egyptian government has targeted relatives of prominent opponents abroad in order to pressure them into silence.