Mr. Ahmed Samir Santawy is a postgraduate student at Central European University (CEU) in Vienna, Austria, who is detained in Egypt in apparent connection with his studies and alleged, nonviolent expressive activity. Mr. Santawy is an Egyptian citizen and a second-year MA student in Sociology and Social Anthropology at CEU. His studies focus on women’s rights in Egypt, in particular reproductive rights. Read more.
Since September 2019, when Mr. Santway began his MA program at CEU, originally in Budapest, Hungary, Egyptian authorities have stopped and questioned him about his studies each time he has arrived or departed from Cairo International Airport. On December 15, 2020, Mr. Santawy returned to Egypt for a family visit. Upon his arrival, authorities stopped him at the airport and briefly interrogated him. On January 23, 2021, authorities raided Mr. Santway’s family’s home, during which they confiscated surveillance camera footage and told his family that he was required to present himself to the authorities. On February 1, 2021, authorities arrested Mr. Santway at a police station after he complied with the order to make an appearance. Sources indicate that authorities held Samir incommunicado for five days, during which he was interrogated about his studies and social media activity. Samir also reported that he was blindfolded and beaten by his interrogators.
On February 6, the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) charged Mr. Santawy with “membership in a terrorist group,” “spreading false news,” and “using a social media account to spread false news.” The charges are reportedly based on an alleged social media post critical of the government — Mr. Santawy has denied publishing the post — and an investigation by the National Security Agency. The file compiled for the investigation has not been disclosed to Samir or his lawyer. The SSSP ordered Mr. Santawy remanded in custody for fifteen days.
On February 17, the Freedom of Thought and Expression Law Firm (AFTE) reported that the SSSP renewed Mr. Santawy’s detention for fifteen days. Mr. Santawy reportedly was not present for the SSSP’s decision.
On February 23, the SSSP charged Mr. Santawy with “financing a terrorist group.” The SSSP did not clarify what the terrorist group is or Mr. Santawy’s alleged relationship with the group. In Liman Tora Prison, Mr. Santawy is reportedly held in solitary confinement and is denied access to his family and lawyer, the prison canteen where he would be able to purchase food and drinks, personal hygiene care, and clothing to accommodate cold winter temperatures.