Ola Al-Qaradawi was returned to solitary confinement yesterday, despite the fact that an Egyptian court ordered her release hours earlier.
The daughter of the influential scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi was arrested along with her husband Hosam Khalef in 2017, forcibly disappeared, then kept in pretrial detention, which was regularly renewed.
Under Egyptian law pre-trial prisoners must be released after two years if their case hasn’t gone to court. Prosecutors then have 24 hours to appeal the ruling, which they do regularly as a way to bypass the pre-trial law.
The prosecutor has now accused Ola of “membership and financial support of a terrorist group using her relationships in prison,” in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood. A similar charge that was levelled against her two years ago.
In 2013 Egyptian authorities banned the Muslim Brotherhood, labelled it a terrorist organisation and imprisoned hundreds of its members.
Many Egyptians are detained under the allegation of being part of the Brotherhood, even if, like Ola, they are not affiliated with the group.
Ola is a Qatari citizen and her arrest is considered to be part of a wider geopolitical conflict between Qatar and Egypt, which has imposed a land, sea and air blockade on the Gulf state along with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.
She is being punished for being Yusuf Al-Qaradawi’s daughter, who has been cast as an opponent of the current regime as he once spoke out against the military in Egypt, despite not doing so publicly for several years. One of the demands of lifting the blockade was for Qatar to extradite Al-Qaradawi to Egypt.
Ola has now spent more than 700 days in solitary confinement in which she is not allowed contact with her family or her lawyer, whether in person or over the phone. She has never been allowed to receive a visitor, a common punitive measure used against prisoners, that has worsened after former President Mohamed Morsi’s death.
In response to the charges, Ola told the prosecutor that she will begin an open ended hunger strike until she is unconditionally released. During her time in detention Ola has been denied medical care and her family are extremely concerned for her health.
Last year, her eldest daughter Aayah Khalaf, who is based in the US, told MEMO that her condition was “weak and deteriorating”. She has described this latest decision as a “tragedy”.
My mother’s health has deteriorated and the psychological impact from solitary confinement is indescribable. A hunger strike will kill my mother and her death will be on the Egyptian authorities.
“My family and I are devastated and heartbroken. Our dreams of seeing her soon and our joy that her two years of torture were finally over were crushed this morning.”