A so-called terrorism court in Egypt has sentenced the President of the Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies, Bahey El-Din Hassan, to 15 years in prison in absentia.
The charges levelled against Bahey Hassan, who has been described as the spiritual father of the human rights movement, are familiar. They have been issued, in one form or another, against Egypt's 60,000 political prisoners, multiple times: spreading false news and insulting the judiciary.
Bahey Hassan left Egypt in 2014 after receiving death threats for his work. Two years later a travel ban was issued against him and his assets were frozen after he and his organisation were targeted by what Amnesty terms a "politically motivated investigation into the work of human rights organisations in case 173", or the foreign funding case.
In 2019 Hassan was sentenced to three years in prison, again in absentia, and fined 20,000 Egyptian pounds ($1,259) for allegedly insulting the judiciary.
Amr Magdi, Egypt's researcher for Human Rights Watch, has drawn comparisons with Bahey Hassan's treatment by the Sisi government to how his organisation was allowed to operate under ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
just as a means of comparison: Yes Bahey & his colleagues at @CIHRS_Alerts were not "loved" by Mubarak's gov't but at least they had some open doors to the relevant gov't institutions & a much broader space to work. Mubarak's autocracy looks like a far dream now in Sisi's hell.
— Amr Magdi (@ganobi) August 25, 2020
The ruling has ignited a wave of criticism by prominent figures and underscored the brutal tactics used by Egypt's government to silence dissenting voices.
Once again, the Egyptian authorities have confirmed their ruthless intolerance of critical views and freedom of expression. Bahey el-Din Hassan is one of the founding members of #Egypt's human rights movement, and this sentence is a mockery of justice. https://t.co/Zplw6Q1iRh
— Amnesty International (@amnesty) August 25, 2020
Egypt's descent into authoritarian intolerance continues as exiled human rights defender, Bahey el-Din Hassan, handed outrageous 15-year prison sentence https://t.co/44rMzaoklbpic.twitter.com/E1YYRukhlp
— Iain Levine (@iainlevine) August 25, 2020
— Mary Lawlor UN Special Rapporteur HRDs (@MaryLawlorhrds) August 25, 2020
The evidence used against Bahey Hassan was his tweets, in which he criticised the spiralling human rights situation in Egypt, and the fact that he called for justice for the murdered student Giulio Regeni at the UN Human Rights Council.
According to Amnesty, Hassan was investigated by the Supreme State Security Prosecution and the National Security Agency, which is responsible for the enforced disappearance and torture of detainees.
Rights experts have called Egypt's judicial system a farce and said that it does not practice due process but instead uses kangaroo courts. Egypt for rights defenders is as an "open-air prison", Amnesty has said.
"A 15-year prison sentence against Bahey Hassan proves: no independence of the judiciary in the Sisi era. Repression and abuse is for people of all sects. The current system does not fix matter nor can it be reformed. The continued division of the national forces is the biggest motive for the regime's oppression. All solidarity with the spiritual father of the human rights movement," Leader of Ghad El Thawra Liberal Party wrote on Twitter.
حكم سجن #بهي_الدين_حسن ١٥عاما يثبت المثبت:
•لا استقلال للقضاء في عهد #السيسى
•القمع والتنكيل طال–وسيطول- الجميع من كل الأطياف
•النظام الحالي لا يصلح ولا يُصلح
•استمرار فرقةالقوى الوطنية أكبر دافع لبطش النظام
— Ayman Nour (@AymanNour) August 26, 2020
#Sisi regime has sentenced @BaheyHassan, the head of @CIHRS_en 15 years in prison. Actually, these are security branches nor courts, based on security transcripts instead of laws, carried out by mercenaries not judges, and they builded a foundation of terrorism by their Tyranny.
— Fadel Abdul Ghany (@FADELABDULGHANY) August 25, 2020
The verdict against @BaheyHassan is the result of a repressive tool (the Terrorism Circuit at the Criminal Court) using repressive laws to issue a political ruling with the purpose of terrorising Mr Hassan due to his work that exposes Sisi's human rights crimes. | #Egypthttps://t.co/7XRgBReFHM
— Ahmed Mefreh (@AhmedMefreh9) August 25, 2020
If anyone is insulting the Egyptian judiciary, then they are the judges and prosecutors involved in the ridiculous verdicts against @BaheyHassan and others sentenced in unfair trials for peacefully expressing their views. https://t.co/cChJJVQ3g2
— Hussein Baoumi (@husseinmagdy16) August 25, 2020
— Amr Khalifa (@Cairo67Unedited) August 25, 2020
One blogger pointed out the contradictions inherent in Egypt's justice system and the impunity with which the authorities operate.
Unbelievable. 15 years in jail in absentia for veteran rights activist and dissident in exile @BaheyHassan. Policemen who tortured people to death in police stations got far far lighter sentences. This verdict will only further tarnish Egypt's image abroad. https://t.co/C4tSi4aUgX
— The Big Pharaoh (@TheBigPharaoh) August 25, 2020
Others described the ruling as state thuggery and state terrorism.
Human rights activist Osama Rushdi took to Twitter to say: "The unfair and shocking ruling issued against the Egyptian human rights defender Bahey Hassan, president of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, by one of the anti-terrorism bodies, of 15 years imprisonment, is one of the methods of state terrorism practiced by Al-Sisi against all human rights defenders. These rulings are unfair, nihilistic, and we reject them and they only support Al-Sisi himself."
الحكم الجائر الصادر ضد الحقوقي المصري @BaheyHassan
من أحد دوائر الإرهاب بالسجن15عاما
هو أحد اساليب إرهاب الدولة التي يمارسها #السيسي ضد كل المدافعين عن حقوق الانسان
هذه الأحكام جائرة وعدمية ومرفوضة ولاتدين إلا السيسي نفسهhttps://t.co/LneBlCNlaU
— أسامة رشدي (@OsamaRushdi) August 25, 2020
In Egypt, the price of being principled & vocal is 15 years of max security prison.
Tweeting facts abt Egypt's dictatorship is "terrorism"
I stand in solidarity w/@BaheyHassan against the systemic campaign to intimidate him into silence.
This is what state thuggery looks like https://t.co/bRjeZHVfKQ
— Mohamed Soltan | محمد سلطان (@soltanlife) August 25, 2020
According to the journalist Mohannad Sabry, Hassan's case is the first of several against human rights defenders living abroad.
I received news from a #Cairo source that the jail sentence against #Egypt's prominent rights defender @BaheyHassan isn't an isolated case but the first of several that will be announced by Egypt's terrorism court against rights defenders, activists & journalists living abroad.
— Mohannad Sabry (@mmsabry) August 25, 2020
Ironically, a free and fair judicial system is one of the goals which Hassan dedicated his life to.
— Michele Dunne (@MicheleDDunne) August 25, 2020
Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy said that Hassan represents the integrity and courage of human rights defenders.
When I was a journalist in #Egypt, I interviewed @BaheyHassan dozens of times. He represents the integrity and courage of human rights defenders. And this farcical trial and outrageous sentence represent the fascism and depravity of the Sisi regime. https://t.co/g4ml3XS10Y
— Mona Eltahawy (@monaeltahawy) August 25, 2020
Whilst Sabry said Hassan makes he and others hopeful that after decades of lethal oppression there will be a free and democratic Egypt.
Bahey Eddin Hassan is among those who make us hopeful that one day, after decades of lethal oppression, we will have a free & democratic #Egypt ruled by justice rather than guns & bullets.
I stand in solidarity with @BaheyHassan against the disgraceful attempts to silence him.
— Mohannad Sabry (@mmsabry) August 25, 2020