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Sources: 200 Egyptians deported from Saudi for political reasons

A picture taken during a guided tour organised by Egypt's State Information Service on February 11, 2020, shows an Egyptian police officer entering the Tora prison in the Egyptian capital Cairo. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP) (Photo by KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images)
A picture taken during a guided tour organised by Egypt's State Information Service on February 11, 2020, shows an Egyptian police officer entering the Tora prison in the Egyptian capital Cairo. [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images]

Informed sources have disclosed that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia deported about 200 Egyptians from among those who are opposed to the military coup authority for political reasons. Four who are wanted by the Egyptian authorities were discretely handed over during the past months. It was announced that one person was handed over at the beginning of this month. In addition, Saudi Arabia deported more than 190 Egyptians to other countries after they were told that Riyadh would hand them over to Cairo if they did not leave its territories.

The sources, who refused to be identified, stressed in exclusive statements to Arabi21 that some of the Egyptians who were deported from Saudi Arabia were jailed for a few months or weeks in Saudi prisons. They were deported on their own request. The sources also disclosed that some of those deported had their money, remittances and properties confiscated in Saudi Arabia.

On 5 March, a responsible security source at the Egyptian Ministry of the Interior stated that a Muslim Brotherhood member by the name of Sharif Assim Naim Al-Basyouni arrived in Egypt having been deported by the Saudi authorities in the company of a security mission upon Cairo's International Organisation of Criminal Police (Interpol) request following a court ruling against him.

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The security source said in a statement that the defendant is wanted for the execution of court case number 939 of 2014, New Dimyat Criminal Investigations, where he is accused with others of joining a group that was formed in violation of the law, of gathering for the purpose of perpetrating the crimes of assaulting other persons, of sabotaging public and private properties, using force and violence and of possessing knives without legal justification. He had also been sentenced in absentia to three years in prison.

The source explained that coordination took place among international and Arab criminal police (Cairo Interpol) and the Saudi security authorities. He was arrested and delivered to the Egyptian authorities and the necessary legal proceedings were undertaken against the mentioned person who appeared before the prosecution.

In the meantime, an Egyptian called M.A., who was deported from Saudi Arabia and moved to Turkey, narrated some details of what happened to him. He said he was working in Saudi Arabia as a medical doctor for several years and had no organised affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood. He travelled to his country, Egypt, for a few months after the military coup and did not take part in any protests against the regime. Then he went back to his work in Riyadh. He was then surprised to be summoned in December 2014 by the Saudi authorities for questioning.

He added in an exclusive statement to Arabi21: "We used to be interrogated by Saudi Arabian security agencies in small groups from different countries because of the large number of persons summoned. I was surprised to hear the interrogator tell me that I was wanted by the Egyptian authorities in one of the cases about which I knew nothing about. When I explained this to him, he asked me several questions about my interests and political stances. I was taken aback by some of them, especially when he asked me: 'Why don't you like President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi?'"

Sisi's Prisons - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Egypt Sisi's Prisons – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

He went on to say: "I was questioned for less than one hour. Although I explained to them the truth about my stance toward the Sisi regime or any other regime – for I was not a political activist and was not preoccupied with politics and its disputes. I had been working in Saudi Arabia for eight consecutive years and was shocked to be asked by the security interrogator to leave Saudi territories tomorrow and not a day after to any country of my choosing. I was told if I did not do so I would immediately be handed over to the Egyptian authorities."

M.A. noted that the Saudi authorities did not confiscate his money and that he was compelled to travel to Turkey out of concern that any other country he might travel to could hand him over to Egypt. He added: "I never expected Saudi Arabia to do this on any day. I have always considered it to be my second home after Egypt." He stressed that his name "was not on Interpol lists."

On the other hand, rights activist Abd Al-Majid Marari, head of the French branch of Alliance for Freedom and Dignity International [AFD], said that scores of young men have been placed on Interpol's wanted lists according to the international police organisation's website. He explained that these young men were sentenced by the Egyptian judiciary in politicised court cases despite their being outside Egypt at the time. He pointed out that his organisation is in contact with one of these cases, a young Egyptian who works in Saudi Arabia and who has been wanted by the coup authorities for about a year.

Marari explained that an appeal was submitted against this case in Lyon's supreme court in France, which is the only court authorised internationally to look into appeals against Interpol decisions. He stressed that an appeal would stop the decision to extradite until it is considered, which means that the case is still current.

He went on to say: "During the past period, this person was given the choice by the Saudi authorities, either be deported and leave the Kingdom or be extradited and handed over in the coming few days to Egypt. This was said to him in spite of the appeal submitted to the French court in Lyon."

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Regarding the case of Sharif Assim who was recently extradited to Egypt, he said: "To the best of my knowledge this has been the first case in which a case of extradition is announced since the implementation of the partnership between the coup authority and Interpol. His name was on the Interpol list, but the problem is the illegality of the extradition as a matter of principle, because it is done on a purely political basis. Those who are on the Interpol list at the moment are registered because of political reasons. According to article 3 of the statute of this foundation, it is forbidden to pursue any person for political reasons. However, it is obvious that Interpol is being manipulated by certain circles. Therefore, this is an extradition that is appealable as a matter of principle."

He also said that Interpol grants the authorities of the country in which the concerned person lives the powers to arrest him. Therefore, it was the Saudi authorities who took that decision (that is arresting and extraditing Sharif Assim), which is certain to have been made upon pressure from the Egyptian authorities that kept demanding the extradition.

Marari also stressed that Interpol is not binding upon other countries because it may stir up diplomatic problems for the country, in which the person whose extradition is demanded happens to be living, with another country, especially when it happens that the wanted person is a prominent political personality. This is what may create major embarrassment for this country.

He went on to say: "In France, for instance, there are prominent political personalities that are wanted by Interpol instantly and immediately. However, the French authorities pay no attention to the Interpol decisions despite the appearance of red marks against them. Everyone knows that the sentences issued in Egypt are now all fabricated and are politically motivated. We consider them to be nothing but administrative rather than judicial decisions."

The Director of AFD France also said that irrespective of Interpol's decisions, Saudi Arabia may still extradite or deport wanted individuals because of a security cooperation agreement between Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

"We are having a discussion with the Saudi authorities on this matter so as to explain to them the illegality of extradition decisions, for what emanates from falsehood is false and Interpol decisions are challenged anyway. There is now a rights movement seeking to communicate with the Interpol organisation in order to remove the names that have clear political backgrounds, and therefore an international organisation that is supposed to be independent should not allow itself to be entangled in political disputes, especially when this organisation is expected to serve global security."

Marari also explained that the Egyptian authorities manipulate the Interpol card. They only discovered they could play this game recently. It has been more than two years since the coup took place, but it is now that these authorities are beginning to pressure opponents by registering them on the Interpol list so as to restrict their movement and deny them the freedom of travel, and in this way undermine their political activism, or something of this sort.

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Asked if they have a list of the people who have been deported from Saudi Arabia to another country without being extradited to Cairo, he said: "We do not have accurate and documented data but there are nearly scores, or let us say more than 30 individuals, who were indeed deported from Saudi Arabia. We have not been able to contact all subjects."

Regarding how Saudi Arabia dealt with this file during the reign of the late King Abdullah and the current monarch King Salman, he said: "During the reign of the late king not a single person wanted by the Egyptian authorities was extradited. It is rather astonishing that the Kingdom has now changed course and is extraditing innocent people. The Saudi authorities know quite well that these innocent persons would be jailed and tortured; some may end up being killed. They will inevitably be facing death in Egypt whether quickly or slowly. Saudi Arabia knows this quite well but yet it insists on extraditing them to a state authority in which there is no justice whatsoever. In fact, this never happened during the time of the late King Abdullah. Therefore, we denounce such behaviour during the time of King Salman, whose coming to power was initially welcomed and thought to bear glad tidings."

He pointed out that the French judiciary is dealing with the necessary seriousness and objectivity with the appeals they make against the Interpol decisions. He stressed that the French judiciary is annoyed about the conduct of Interpol on French territory and feels it is causing great embarrassment. It is for this reason it has been accepting many of the appeals AFD France submits against the decisions, especially that, as human rights activists, they supply the evidence to prove that these decisions are very clearly founded on political considerations.

Marari concluded by saying: "Very regrettably, Saudi Arabia is using the logic of interests in the sense that because it has certain interests with the Egyptian regime it chooses therefore to ignore the logic of reason, law and rights. It is obvious that the Saudi authorities give priority to economic and political interests."

However, a prominent Muslim Brotherhood leader has said that the Saudi attitude in this file represents very few, even individual, cases that could not come up to this figure (about 200) in any way. He added: "Regrettably, I do not personally have information or full details about these cases. But I do not think that Saudi Arabia is deporting anyone nowadays in response to a request from Egypt alone. I believe that Riyadh may have its own special reasons, for certainly there must be other reasons."

In a statement to Arabi21, he noted that there are scores of Muslim Brotherhood members in Saudi Arabia who are wanted by the Egyptian authorities. He said there are even some very senior leaders of the group and no harm has come to them. He disclosed, however, that an extradition case similar to that of Sharif Assim occurred several months ago but said that this never occurred again to the best of his knowledge.

The Brotherhood leader, who refused to have his identity disclosed, went on to say: "The coming days will reveal the truth about this matter and the manner in which the Saudi authorities have been conducting themselves in this regard. We are trying to find out what has been going on in the Kingdom."

Human rights activist Haitham Abu Khalil, the director of the Dahaya Human Rights Centre, has said he cannot find an explanation for the extradition case recently made public (the case of Sharif Assim), because he is just an ordinary person and not "significant" since, according to him, only the extradition of public or important figures is made public.

Regarding the significant of this incident, Abu Khalil told Arabi21 that Saudi Arabia is still adhering to its position of supporting the Egyptian regime and that its intelligence services manage this file rather fiercely. He added: "What shame is brought upon the Saudi regime that extradites opponents of the military coup, those who sought refuge and protection in the land of the two Holy Shrines. Everyone knows these are fabricated and politically motivated cases."

The official in charge of the Egyptian file at the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK (AOHR UK) Mustafa Azab has said the organisation does not have precise data on the Egyptians who were deported from Saudi Arabia for political reasons. "When such actions are taken by some of the states that show no respect for human rights, as did Lebanon and Kuwait before, for example, this usually takes place in response to political pressure exercised by the Egyptian regime. Such countries are run by repressive regimes."

Sisi Era - Cartoon [Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

Sisi Era – Cartoon [Carlos Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

In a statement to Arabi21, he said that it is not possible to say definitely how many Egyptians have had their names listed with Interpol. He explained that many people are declared wanted by virtue of an internal system that does not warrant the consent of Interpol. In this case, the member state just sends a memo to all Interpol member states requesting the extradition of defendants, and in this case it is the judiciary of those states that decides to extradite if these states show no respect for human rights.

Azab explained that the Egyptian authorities failed in their bid to have a number of Egyptians who are wanted in political cases extradited from Albania, Macedonia, Germany and other countries. According to him, the authorities in those countries decided that the Egyptian judiciary is politicised and that the country's human rights record is on the decline as the country sees widespread torture, forced disappearances and a rise in death sentences without evidence for purely political reasons.

On 19 August 2013, Kuwait deported nine Egyptians and their families after they took part in demonstrations organised by Kuwaiti activists in front of the Egyptian Consulate and the US Embassy in Kuwait to protest against the storming of the sit-ins at Rabaa and Al-Nahda (in Cairo). On 29 March 2014, Egyptian authorities took delivery from their Kuwaiti counterparts of Muhammad Al-Qabuti, a leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Province of Port Said, who was accused of using violence and of storming a police station and was one of a number of others being tried in a criminal court.

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On 3 April 2014, the Public Security authorities in Lebanon stopped Mukhtar Al-Eshri, head of the legal committee within the Freedom and Justice Party – the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, at Beirut–Rafic Hariri International Airport and arrested Musaad Al-Barbari, director of Ahrar 25 satellite channel, which belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood, and who was waiting for Al-Eshri outside the airport. Both men were extradited to Egypt to be questioned in the case known in the media as "Rabaa Al-Adawiya Operations Room".

Article 3 of the Convention Against Torture states that "parties are prohibited from returning, extraditing, or refouling any person to a state where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture." The Committee Against Torture has held that this danger must be assessed not just for the initial receiving state, but also to states to which the person may be subsequently expelled, returned or extradited.

Translated from Arabi21, 17 March 2016.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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