Almost twenty prominent human rights organisations have signed a joint statement following the arrest of the head of an NGO during a raid on a radio station.
Ahmed Samih, director of the Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies, was arrested after police raided the Cairo office of the Institute’s affiliated radio station, Radio Horytna.
The organisations condemned the arrest as part of an “ongoing campaign to intimidate and terrorise human rights defenders in Egypt…[that] is politically motivated and aims to limit the tools civil society uses to spread a culture of human rights”.
The letter’s signatories include the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Nazra for Feminist Studies, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information and the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, amongst others.
The Saturday raid was conducted by a unit from the Sayeda Zeinab police station and the Artistic Products Investigations Unit. According to a statement from Radio Horytna, the police “investigated the staff on how they produce news, choose content, as well as their affiliations to other groups and political movements”.
On the day of his arrest, Samih was transferred to Sayeda Zeinab prosecution, who ruled that he remain in detention until Sunday, pending the findings of the Internet Investigations Inquiries unit. After the investigation file was submitted, the prosecution released Samih on an EGP 5,000 bail, but he faces five charges, including disseminating audio and visual content without a licence from the competent authorities. He is also accused of managing a facility without a permit. The radio station, however, maintains that online radios do not require a licence.
Whilst the online radio’s focus is on human rights, it maintains it has no political affiliation. According to its website, it “aims to serve the community through the culture of human rights, the concepts of democracy and citizenship, the spirit of tolerance”.
Samih is a well-known figure in Egypt’s NGO community, and has worked in human rights and election monitoring, as well as projects that support freedom of thought and religion.
The joint statement said: “The intention of this type of harassment and legal action is clear: to circumscribe and strangle the activities and initiatives of rights organisations and to make advocacy work, whether through organisations or initiatives, a dangerous endeavour.”
Since the administration of General-turned-President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi took power in 2014, there has been an ongoing crackdown on the operations of non-state civil organisations. The Ministry of Social Solidarity has closed down hundreds of NGOs across the country, primarily those claimed to be associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. A decree was also passed that forces all organisations to work under the supervision of the Ministry of Social Solidarity.