Ramy Shaath: Two years in prison for ‘disturbing relations with Israel’

Ramy Shaath, the Egyptian-Palestinian activist and coordinator of the BDS movement in Egypt, is close to completing his second year in detention in Egyptian prisons without trial. His official charge is “participating in a terrorist group in achieving its goals and publishing and broadcasting false news with the purpose of destabilising security and stability.” But the real accusation is disturbing Israeli-Egyptian relations due to the activities of the boycott movement.

Being the son of Nabil Shaath, advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and the former foreign minister, wasn’t enough to secure Ramy’s freedom. So, he was arrested, abused, and his French wife illegally deported. Multiple international appeals for his release have been rejected, and the matter led to questioning of his Egyptian nationality and placing him on terrorist lists.

Who is Ramy Shaath?

Ramy was born in 1971 to an Egyptian mother and a Palestinian-Egyptian father, Nabil Shaath, who worked as an advisor to President Gamal Abdel Nasser and obtained Egyptian citizenship by a decision made by Abdel Nasser. Ramy was active at the beginning of his life in political work, especially in issues related to Palestine, and in the late nineties, he worked as an advisor to the former President Yasser Arafat, before leaving political work for his own work.

Ramy, along with his late brother Ali, founded the TIM company which specialised in the field of management services and consulting and management training. TIM was famous in the early nineties for organising computer camps for children from various countries of the Arab region.

Shaath returned to political work in the wake of the January 25 2011 revolution, helping establish a group of political movements and coalitions, and serving as secretary-general of the Constitution Party before its official establishment.

In 2015, Ramy co-founded the Egyptian Popular Campaign to Boycott Israel in Egypt (BDS Egypt), a national coalition launched by more than 10 political parties, unions, NGOs, and public figures to defend Palestinian rights. With the increasing talk about the “deal of the century,” which aimed to liquidate the Palestinian cause without giving the Palestinians their rights, Ramy announced his total rejection of the deal and criticised Egypt’s participation in the Bahrain workshop in June 2019, which focused on the economic aspect of the deal.

On July 5, 2019, a police force stormed Ramy’s home in Cairo and arrested him and his French wife Céline Lebrun-Shaath, was immediately deported arbitrarily to her country without allowing her to contact her consulate, although she is officially under its protection. Ramy was investigated in Supreme State Security Case No. 930 of 2019, known in the media as the “Cell of Hope” case, under which several civil party leaders in Egypt have been arrested after meetings they held to coordinate participating in the parliamentary elections that took place last year.

The prosecution charged Ramy with “committing crimes of association with a group established in violation of the provisions of the law, the purpose of which is to call for the disruption of the provisions of the constitution and laws, preventing state institutions and public authorities from carrying out their work, and deliberately publishing false news, information and statements about the political and economic conditions in the country with the intent of disturbing public peace and undermining confidence in state institutions.” Since then, over a period of about two years, Ramy has been held in pretrial detention without trial, as his detention has been renewed 24 times without evidence, he has been given no real opportunity to defend himself, and no referral to trial.

Ramy has been targeted by the Egyptian security authorities since 2012, as the Ministry of Interior refuses to renew his passport, claiming that he is “Palestinian and not Egyptian,” without providing an explanation for the reasons why he holds an Egyptian national number card, passport, birth certificate, and a certificate from the armed forces. For further abuse, the Egyptian authorities put his name on the “List of Terrorist Entities and Personalities.” This has many implications, including confiscating his money, banning him from travelling, and placing him on lists at Egyptian ports and airports, as he is a “terrorist.”

International appeals and family movements

Many international organisations and personalities have demanded the release of Ramy Shaath, as he did not commit any crime. His father, Nabil Shaath, asserts that the real reason for keeping his son in prison, according to Egyptian intelligence and security officials, is “that he sometimes causes them problems with the Israelis and the Americans on the issue of boycotting Israel.” Amnesty International has called, more than once, for Shaath’s release, considering that “his detention results solely from the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and his right to participate in public affairs.”

United Nations experts described Rami’s arrest as “arbitrary detention,” calling for his immediate release. They also condemned the inclusion of his name on the terrorism list, considering that this “violates the premise of his innocence in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

In early June, more than 180 French members of elected councils belonging to different political sects asked President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to release Ramy Shaath who is imprisoned “without any charges being brought against him.” Ramy’s father, the senior diplomat Nabil Shaath, confirms that he made many attempts to release his son, but they were unsuccessful. He expressed his readiness to take any measure to restore freedom to his son, “even if it demanded him leaving Egypt as a price for his freedom.”