Ahmed Samir Santawy, Egypt

Posted April 23, 2019

Mr. Ahmed Samir Santawy is a postgraduate student at Central European University (CEU) in Vienna, Austria, who is under a travel ban in Egypt, after being wrongfully detained for 18 months, 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.

 Case Information

Starting in September 2019, when Mr. Santway began his MA program at CEU, originally in Budapest, Hungary, Egyptian authorities stopped and questioned him about his studies each time he 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 Mr. Santawy incommunicado for five days, during which he was interrogated about his studies and social media activity. Mr. Santawy 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 Mr. Santawy 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 was reportedly held in solitary confinement and 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.

On May 22, the SSP opened a new criminal investigation into Mr. Santawy over social media posts for a charge of “publishing false news to undermine the state, its national interests and public order and spread panic among the people.”

On June 22, the State Security Emergency Misdemeanor Court sentenced Mr. Santawy to four years in prison and a fine of 500 pounds for publishing “false news.” The conviction is reportedly based on social media posts critical of Egypt’s violations of human rights, which Mr. Santawy has denied writing. Verdicts given by State Security Emergency Courts cannot be appealed.

On June 23, after the verdict, Mr. Santawy began a hunger strike.

On February 16, 2022, Mr. Santawy’s sentence was quashed and a retrial was announced.

On July 4, the Egyptian Emergency State Security Misdemeanors Court sentenced Mr. Santawy to three years in prison on charges of “spreading false news.”

On July 30, Mr. Santawy was released from prison by presidential decree.

On August 27, Mr. Santawy was informed by Cairo airport authorities that he is banned from travel.

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