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Award-winning Egypt lawyer banned from travel ahead of Aurora prize ceremony in Italy

Mahienour El-Massry, Alexandria Human-Rights Lawyer, 27, activist poses in front of the old Alexandria courthouse, she also lives in ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT on September 12. [Photo by David Degner / Getty Images]

Award-winning Egyptian lawyer Mahienour El-Massry has been informed that she has been banned from travelling, despite being told a month ago that she was not.

Mahienour was informed about the travel ban just as she was about to travel to the Aurora prize ceremony in Italy for which she has been nominated.

The Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity is given annually to an individual who has "had an exceptional impact on preserving human life and advancing humanitarian causes," according to their website.

Mahienour was arrested during the September protests in 2019 having been detained several times before for her activism. She was released in July 2021.

The human rights lawyer organises peaceful protests, defends political prisoners in court and organises solidarity events with people jailed for their political views.

READ: Cop Civic Space calls on Egypt to release political prisoners

Egypt uses travel bans to target members of civil society. They are usually not formally announced and are often open-ended, causing considerable trauma to the victims.

Often separated families, who may live in different countries after one of them fled prison and torture, have not seen each other for years.

Many of the people targeted with travel bans – politicians, journalists, activists, and lawyers – don't find out that they have been subject to a ban until they arrive at the airport and are prevented from boarding the flight.

Mahienour already had her passport confiscated by security services in 2018 when she returned from a human rights conference in Prague.

The news comes as human rights organisations ramp up pressure on the Egyptian government to release political prisoners ahead of COP27, which will be held in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh in November, and to stop committing human rights violations.

There are over 80 lawyers now detained in Egypt, including human rights lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer who was arrested in September 2019 after attending an investigation into his friend, Alaa Abdelfattah.

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