On May 23, 2016, Scholars at Risk wrote to the Egyptian authorities to express concern over the arrest and prosecution of Mohamed Nagy, a graduate student within the Faculty of Economics and Political Science at Cairo University and a researcher on academic freedom and students’ rights for the Association for Free Thought and Expression. Mr. Nagy was arrested at a protest on April 25, 2016.
May 23, 2016
Office of the Prime Minister
Maglis al-Sha’ab Street
Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt
Re: Mohamed Nagy
I write on behalf of the Scholars at Risk Network to express concern over the arrest and prosecution of graduate student and academic freedom researcher Mohamed Nagy, reportedly in connection with his participation in a non-violent, public demonstration.
Scholars at Risk (SAR) is an international network of over 400 universities and colleges in 39 countries dedicated to promoting academic freedom and its constituent freedoms of thought, opinion, expression, association and travel. In cases involving alleged infringement of these freedoms, Scholars at Risk intervenes hoping to clarify and resolve matters favorably.
Mohamed Nagy is a graduate student within the Faculty of Economics and Political Science at Cairo University and a researcher on academic freedom and students’ rights for the Association for Free Thought and Expression, an Egyptian civil society organization. Scholars at Risk understands that Mr. Nagy was arrested on April 25, 2016 while attending a peaceful public demonstration critical of the government’s announced plan to transfer control over the islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia. The protest of April 25th was one of many over several days, during which reports suggest more than 300 people were arrested, including many peaceful participants and observers including lawyers, journalists, and civil society workers. We understand that after his arrest Mr. Nagy was taken to Agouza prison, where he was interrogated and later charged with participating in a protest without a permit. He appeared in the Agouza Misdemeanors Court on Saturday, April 30. His case was adjourned for two weeks, during which time he remained in detention. We further understand that, on May 14, 2016, the court sentenced Mr. Nagy, along with 21 other people, to the maximum available sentence of five years in prison. Mr. Nagy is now reportedly being held in Giza Central Prison, where he awaits an appellate hearing, scheduled to take place on May 24.
We welcome any additional information that may explain these events or clarify our understandings. Absent this, the facts as described suggest that Mr. Nagy has been charged and sentenced as a result of nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and association – conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a party. We are particularly concerned that Mr. Nagy’s detention may be in part in retaliation for his role in researching incidents of pressure or violence against Egypt’s higher education students. If true this would raise serious concerns not only for Mr. Nagy’s well-being in custody but for Egyptian higher education generally and the ability of Egyptian scholars and students to conduct their research, teaching and public expression without fear of arrest, prosecution or other retaliation. The reports of hundreds of other detentions on and around April 25th and numerous separate reports of the imprisonment of hundreds of other Egyptian students and scholars further underline these concerns.
We therefore respectfully urge you to direct appropriate authorities to ensure a full, impartial, timely and transparent investigation of the events of April 25th and Mr. Nagy’s detention; to drop any charges or proceedings against Mr. Nagy or others which stem from the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression and freedom of association; and to issue a firm, clear and public statement of Egypt’s commitment to freedom of expression and academic freedom as essential elements of top quality higher education and stable, prosperous and democratically legitimate society generally.
We appreciate your attention to this important matter and look forward to your reply.
Mohamed Hosam Ahmed Ali Abdel-Reheem
Minister of Justice
Lazoghly Square, Ministry of Justice
Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt
Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the United States of America
3521 International Court, NW
Washington, DC 20008 USA
The Honorable John F. Kerry
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520 USA
The Honorable Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussain
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
The Honorable Robert Stephen Beecroft
United States Ambassador to the Arab Republic of Egypt
Embassy of the United States of America
5 Tawfik Diab Street
Garden City, Cairo Egypt