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US lawmakers call on Sisi to release EIPR leaders

SOCHI RUSSIA - OCTOBER 24: (RUSSIA OUT) Egyptian President Abdel Fattal el-Sisi speaks at the Russia-Africa Summit on October 24, 2019 in Sochi, Russia. Leaders of African countries have gathered in Sochi for two-days summit. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
Egyptian President Abdel Fattal Al-Sisi in Sochi, Russia on October 24, 2019 [Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images]

Thirty-seven members of US Congress have called on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to release the leaders of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), to end the arrests against oppositionists and halt the smear campaign against human rights organisations in Egypt.

In a new message sent by the US lawmakers on Wednesday evening, they called for the release of Patrick George Zaki, an EIPR researcher, who was arrested earlier this year in a separate case, the lift of the travel ban imposed on Hussam Bahgat, founder and interim director of the initiative on behalf of Gasser Abdel Razek, and to unfreeze the organisation's funds.

Among the congress members who signed the letter were Tammy Baldwin, Patrick Leahy, Richard Blumenthal, Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren.

In their letter, published by Senator Tammy Baldwin, the lawmakers conveyed that the illegal arrests of human rights defenders and other serious violations are unconstitutional and incompatible with the democratic standards that the US expects of its international security partners.

READ: Sisi builds dog quarters in palaces whilst Egyptians go hungry

The letter stressed that the continuation of these recent measures and the ongoing repression against civil society organisations undermines Egypt-US relations and sends a clear message to the US that the Egyptian side is not fully respecting bilateral ties between the two countries.

The Egyptian authorities have recently arrested three members of the EIPR, namely, executive director, Jasser Abdel-Razek, administrative director, Mohamed Bashir and director of the criminal justice unit, Karim Emara, according to activists' statements.

The EIPR indicated that the activists, who had been detained on charges of "joining a terrorist group" and "spreading misleading news," were remanded in custody for 15 days, which could be extended under Egyptian law to up to two years.

Since its inception in 2002, the EIPR has worked on a number of areas, including criminal justice, civil liberties and economic and social justice.

The organisation's work has ranged from advocacy, legal support for vulnerable groups and the publications of in-depth reports and studies in various fields.

On Friday, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed concern over the arrests of the three EIPR leaders by the Egyptian authorities.

Egypt has faced international criticism over the restriction of freedoms and the arrests of political dissidents. However, Cairo has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to respecting the law and human rights.

READ: Grandmother electrocuted on her genitals in Egypt prison

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