SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: May 24, 2018

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):University of Washington

Region & Country:Northern Africa | Egypt

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On May 24, 2018, Egyptian authorities reportedly detained Walid Salem, a PhD student at the University of Washington, in apparent connection with his academic research. He was later charged with “spreading false news to undermine national interests” and “joining a terrorist group.”

Mr. Salem (also referred to in reports as Walid “al-Shobaky” or “al-Shobaki”) was reportedly arrested shortly after he conducted an interview with a prominent law professor regarding his work on judicial independence. Mr. Salem was reportedly held incommunicado for four days without access to a lawyer, before being arraigned in court, also without counsel. He is now one of a number of defendants in case number 441/2018, a criminal action case involving bloggers, journalists, and filmmakers.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention and prosecution of a student in apparent retaliation for nonviolent expressive and academic activity. State authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with the right to freedom of expression and academic freedom, so long as they are exercised peacefully and responsibly. Detentions and prosecutions aimed at limiting such activity undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.

Update: Salem was released from custody in mid-December 2018, although the case against him remained pending.

Update: In December 2021, SAR learned that the case has not yet been brought to trial.

Corrections: Corrections were made to reflect that Salem was charged alongside “bloggers, journalists, and filmmakers,” not “activists and journalists;” that the charge relating to “spreading false news” should have been reported as, “spreading false news to undermine national interests.”