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Austria master's student sentenced to 3 years in Egypt prison

[FreeAhmedSamir1/Twitter]
[FreeAhmedSamir1/Twitter]

Researcher Ahmed Samir Santawy has been sentenced to three years in prison in Egypt in a retrial which cannot be appealed.

At this stage, the only way the sentence can be repealed is if President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi chooses not to ratify it.

Ahmed was sentenced by an emergency state security misdemeanours court on charges of "publishing false news" after already spending a year and a half in prison.

Similar charges have been made against other political prisoners, including Alaa Abdelfattah who was sentenced to five years in prison for spreading false news, human rights lawyer Mohamed Al-Baqer and blogger Mohamed Oxygen.

In December 2020, whilst in Egypt for a holiday, masked and armed policemen broke into Ahmed's house and demanded he go to the police station when they found he wasn't there. He was later forcibly disappeared and beaten whilst he was being interrogated.

Ahmed was researching women's rights in Islam at the Central European University (CEU) in Vienna and was questioned about his views on women's sexual and reproductive rights.

RSF: Egypt's state-run media running smear campaigns against critical journalists

He was also questioned about his links to terrorists and told that the investigation into him was secret and his lawyers were not allowed to examine it.

In 2021 Amnesty International said that Ahmed's conviction was "based solely on social media posts criticising human rights violations in Egyptian prisons and the state's mishandling of the pandemic, which he has, in any case, denied writing."

Ahmed's sentencing comes as Egypt launches a national human rights strategy which promises that political reform is underway.

Last week, MEP Hannah Neumann said that despite Al-Sisi trying to bolster his image by hosting the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference COP27 and holding national dialogue, tangible steps on human rights reform had to follow.

Ahead of the 4 July retrial, CEU issued a statement about the "grave injustice" against Ahmed. "Jailed for exercising his freedom of opinion and expression as a researcher and as a private citizen, Ahmed Samir Santawy is a prisoner of conscience. As the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has found, Ahmed has been detained for more than a year arbitrarily and in contravention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, merely for exercising his freedom of opinion and expression as a researcher and as a private citizen."

"We call upon all who value freedom and human dignity to demand Ahmed's immediate and unconditional release."

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