NEW YORK, November 9, 2015 – The International Center for Transitional Justice finds the arrest of Hossam Bahgat, one of Egypt’s leading human rights activists, an ominous sign of the country’s continuous slide into oppression under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. On Sunday, Bahgat was summoned by the Egyptian military intelligence and, after nine hours of interrogation, was transferred to a military prosecutor who charged him with disseminating “false information about the Army.” Bahgat could face up to five years’ imprisonment.
ICTJ joins human rights organizations and defenders around the world in calling for Bahgat’s immediate release and for Egypt’s government to respect human rights and rule of law, particularly with regard to the freedom of the press and due process.
“Hossam Bahgat’s clarion voice articulated the aspirations of Egyptians who took to the streets to end Mubarak’s dictatorship under the slogan ‘Bread. Freedom. Social justice.’ Bahgat’s arrest again shows that the military and President Sisi have decided to take the country in precisely the opposite direction, toward repression and fear. We stand in solidarity with Hossam,” said David Tolbert, president of ICTJ.
The ongoing crackdown on journalists and demonstrators in Egypt, which has seen Bahgat detained by the military intelligence on baseless charges, clearly illustrates that the hopes of millions of Egyptians for a more just, rights-respecting society have been all but dashed under the current regime.
When Bahgat spoke at ICTJ’s Annual Lecture on Transitional Justice in 2011, he was clear about the kind of society he and millions of Egyptians wanted: “[For true] reform, justice and accountability for crimes committed must be restored to promote democratization as well as economic growth.”
“His words ring more true today than ever before,” said Tolbert. “Certainly the detention of journalists and the use of draconian anti-terrorism laws as an excuse by the military to suppress freedom of speech are the actions of authoritarian rulers, not a government aspiring to be seen as democratic and respecting international norms.”
According to reports, the military prosecutor ordered Bahgat to be detained for four days, until November 11. Bahgat’s lawyers do not have access to him today and the military prosecutor has refused to inform his lawyers as to his whereabouts. The last time anyone saw him was at 9:00 last night (EET) and his current whereabouts are unknown.
The charges against him stem from an investigative piece he wrote in October on an attempted coup against the Egyptian president.
Article 204 of Egypt’s 2014 Constitution allows civilians to be referred to military courts. It has been seriously challenged by Egyptian activists, some of whom are currently serving different sentences stemming from their involvement in demonstrations.
Bahgat founded the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), an independent Egyptian human rights organization that became one of the most effective and prominent human rights organizations in Egypt, in 2005. In 2013, Foreign Policy named Bahgat among the leading global thinkers of the year. That same year, Bahgat left EIPR and joined Mada Masr, an online news site, to pursue investigative journalism. He has written a series of high-quality investigative articles concerning the Egyptian army and military trials.
Refik Hodzic, ICTJ Director of Communications E-mail: email@example.com Tel: +1 917-637-3853
PHOTO: In an ICTJ video, Hossam Bahgat discusses the 2011 revolution and the fight for justice in Egypt. (ICTJ)