The German government’s Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Assistance, Bärbel Kofler, has condemned the continued detention of human rights defender Mohammed el-Baqer, who is approaching his second year in detention.
In a press statement published on the German embassy on Cairos’s Facebook page, Kofler said: “I condemn the ongoing detention of Mohammed el-Baqer, which has lasted almost two years now.”
And, Kofler added, “during my visit to Egypt in 2019, I was able to meet him in person and found him to be an impressive and committed lawyer who has been working peacefully and with great dedication for the rights of his compatriots.”
“Lawyers must not be punished for their important work!”, Kofler continued.
Kofler called on the Egyptian authorities to improve al-Baqer’s condition. “He should be given a bed, as well as periods out in the fresh air and access to personal belongings such as books or clothes”, her statement read.
And, the commissioner added, “the treatment of Mr el-Baqer is symptomatic of the catastrophic conditions to which many political prisoners are subjected in Egyptian prisons.”
“In late July, the Egyptian human rights lawyer Mohammed el-Baqer spent his second birthday in a row in a high-security Egyptian prison”, Kofler continued. “He was arrested in September 2019, immediately after defending his prominent client, the activist Alaa Abdel Fattah.
“The German Government has already raised Mohammed el-Baqer’s case with the Egyptian authorities several times and called for his release.”
“The German Government has already raised Mohammed el-Baqer’s case with the Egyptian authorities several times and called for his release. The recent release of two activists and several journalists from detention was noted with approval by the German Government, which urges the Egyptian Government to resolutely continue along this path.”
El-Baqer is detained in connection with case No. 135, brought by the Supreme State Security Prosecution unit in 2019, in which he faces charges of “broadcasting, publishing and broadcasting false news and statements, misusing social media, and knowingly participating in a terrorist group and promoting its purposes.”
The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, has confirmed Egyptian authorities’ charges against human rights defenders in the country are “fabricated and false”.
In a 15 July statement, Lawlor expressed her dissatisfaction with the continued, widespread detention of human rights defenders in Egypt, and with their prolonged, pretrial detention periods.
Lawlor accused the Egyptian authorities of an approach “whereby human rights defenders are often arrested without a warrant and detained incommunicado at an unknown location and subjected to enforced disappearance, before being presented before the Supreme State Security Prosecution. Their pre-trial detention pending investigation is then ordered for alleged acts criminalized under the vague provisions of the Penal Code, Anti-Terror Law, and Anti-Cybercrime Law.”
And, Lawlord “stressed [that] human rights defenders are at high risk of being attached to new cases for alleged crimes under the same legislation, a practice particularly common in instances where human rights defenders have seen their release ordered by courts.”
Since President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi assumed power in Egypt, the authorities have waged an unprecedented crackdown on dissidents and critics, making 1000s of politically motivated arrests. Many of those arrested have suffered unfair trials, convictions, and sentences, or been held without trial for years on baseless terrorism-related charges, typically in appalling conditions.