Egypt's President, Abdel Fattah Saeed Hussein Khalil el-Sisi
Egypt's President, Abdel Fattah Saeed Hussein Khalil el-Sisi
Photo: Reuters
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Cairo

Egypt using secret agency to crush free speech, Amnesty says

According to international human rights group, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi has instructed Supreme State Security Prosecution to detain any who voice even the slightest opposition to his rule, labeling them as terrorists and dissidents; thousands jailed since his rule began in 2014

Associated Press |
Updated: 11.27.19 , 11:59
Egypt's government is using a secretive security agency designed to fight terrorism to detain peaceful protesters, journalists and critics on trumped-up charges without trial, Amnesty International said in a report released Wednesday.
The 60-page report by the London-based international human rights group details how Egypt's Supreme State Security Prosecution, or SSSP, has become increasingly central to President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi's sweeping crackdown on dissent.
נשיא מצרים עבד אל-פתאח א-סיסי נוחת ב קהירנשיא מצרים עבד אל-פתאח א-סיסי נוחת ב קהיר
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Cairo
(Photo: Archive)
"In Egypt today, the Supreme State Security Prosecution has stretched the definition of terrorism to encompass peaceful protests, social media posts and legitimate political activities," said Philip Luther, the group's Middle East and North Africa director.
Concertgoers were accused of terrorism for waving rainbow-colored flags, a journalist charged with "broadcasting false news" was detained repeatedly for three years, a human rights lawyer was arrested for joining a protest he says he didn't attend, and several Christians were imprisoned for "aiding a terrorist group," a reference to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood organization.
"Ridiculous prosecutions have proliferated," said report author Hussein Baoumi.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi
(Photo: Reuters)
Citing these cases and over a hundred others, Amnesty International said the SSSP, a secretive agency comprised of just a few hand-picked judges, is abusing its legal powers as a counter-terrorism branch to stifle political dissent.
"There's no judicial oversight. We're talking about a completely closed circuit," Baoumi said. "If these cases were referred to trial, people would be acquitted at once, as the state's accusations are based on confidential police reports," he added.
הפגנות במצרים נגד הנשיא א-סיסיהפגנות במצרים נגד הנשיא א-סיסי
Protests in Egypt against el-Sisi's rule
(Photo: AFP)
Egyptian security forces carried out a harsh crackdown in September to stamp out small but rare anti-government protests.
The SSSP played a critical role in sweeping up thousands of people on charges of terrorism, the report said.
The prosecution agency renews people's detentions for months and years without evidence, denying them access to lawyers and a fair chance to appeal, it added.
הפגנות מחאה ב קהיר מצרים נגד נשיא עבד אל פתאח א סיסיהפגנות מחאה ב קהיר מצרים נגד נשיא עבד אל פתאח א סיסי
Egyptians protest in Cairo against el-Sisi's rule
(Photo: Reuters)
Amnesty said SSSP investigations into allegations of torture and enforced disappearance by the police intelligence division amount to a whitewash.
The SSSP routinely buries evidence of police abuse and gives credence to confessions extracted with torture, it said, drawing on court documents and interviews with dozens of witnesses.
Under el-Sisi, Egypt has seen a "meteoric rise" in cases prosecuted by SSSP, according to Amnesty.
The report drew attention to the expansion of the branch's covert role since a court declared indefinite administrative detention unconstitutional in 2013.
There was no immediate comment from the government on Amnesty's report, but authorities have repeatedly denied charges of violations or police brutality. Authorities say they are fighting terrorism and have accused rights groups of working with foreign entities to undermine the state.
הפגנות מחאה ב קהיר מצרים נגד נשיא עבד אל פתאח א סיסיהפגנות מחאה ב קהיר מצרים נגד נשיא עבד אל פתאח א סיסי
Protests in Egypt against el-Sisi's rule
(Photo: Reuters)
El-Sisi led the military's removal of the country's first democratically elected president in 2013 after his one-year rule proved divisive, sparking nationwide protests.
The general-turned-president has overseen an unprecedented political crackdown, silencing critics and jailing thousands.
"Our goal with this report is to make it very clear that when someone is accused of terrorism in Egypt, the international community cannot take it at face value," Baoumi told The Associated Press, "more likely, that person was arrested for peacefully expressing an opinion."
Late Tuesday, police made six new arrests -- including three journalists -- in central Cairo.
Mohamed Saad Abdel Hafiz, a board member of Egypt's journalists' association, wrote a post on social media about the arrests, listing the journalists as Solafa Magdy, Hossam el-Sayyad and Mohamed Salah.

First published: 11:59 , 11.27.19
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