Human rights organizations call for the immediate and unconditional release of Mohamed Oxygen, asserting that prosecuting him aims to punish for his journalistic work

Date : Friday, 23 September, 2022
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23 September 2022

The undersigned human rights organizations call on the Egyptian authorities to intervene quickly to end the detention of blogger and journalist Mohamed Ibrahim Radwan, known as Mohamed Oxygen, stop all forms of violations he faces inside the prison, and to hold accountable all those involved in committing these violations that contravene the law and the constitution.

By 21 September 2022, Oxygen will complete three years of detention – in solitary confinement most of the time – in Maximum Security Prison 2, in the Tora prison complex. He was held in pretrial detention in connection with three different cases until the Emergency Supreme State Security Misdemeanor Court issued a final ruling against him, sentencing him to four years in prison.

Oxygen is an Egyptian journalist and blogger who owns the “Oxygen Egypt” blog. He is currently detained in Maximum Security Prison 2 in Cairo, known for its harsh and inhumane detention conditions. He is denied leaving his cell or being exposed to the sun. He has not had access to adequate health care and has not been allowed visits from his family or lawyers since February 2020.

Oxygen was arrested for the second time on 21 September 2019 while implementing precautionary measures at Al-Basateen police station after his detention in Case No. 621 of 2018 was replaced by precautionary measures by a decision by the Terrorism Circuit of the Cairo Criminal Court. He remained under enforced disappearance for 18 days until he appeared before the Supreme State Security Prosecution on 8 October 2019, in connection with Case No. 1356 of 2019 (State Security). The prosecution charged him with spreading false news that would harm the country, and joining a banned group, the exact charges he faced in the first case. After spending 14 months in pretrial detention, Oxygen was released under precautionary measures. The Ministry of Interior refused to implement the decision to release him, and he was “recycled from inside his prison” into Case No. 855 of 2020 to prevent him from being released.

On 20 December 2021, the Emergency State Security Misdemeanors Court sentenced Oxygen to four years in prison and ordered him to pay a fine of 200,000 pounds, in Case No. 1228 of 2021 (Emergency State Security). This judgment is final and not subject to appeal.

Violations against Oxygen included arrest, enforced disappearance, torture, physical assault, illegal detention, recycling into new cases from inside his prison, detention in connection with more than one case at the same time, in addition to the four-year prison sentence issued against him.

During Oxygen’s trial, his right to a fair trial was violated in many ways, as the Supreme State Security Prosecution and the Cairo Criminal Court continued to renew his pretrial detention despite the absence of legal justifications in accordance with the Criminal Procedures Law. His lawyer was also prevented from obtaining a copy of the case papers, which undermined the lawyer’s ability to present his argument. Moreover, Oxygen was subjected to threats, psychological terror, and ill-treatment.

During his prolonged imprisonment, Oxygen tried to commit suicide inside his cell, but the prison administration saved him in the last moments. His life is still in danger, especially as his psychological condition continued to deteriorate after the death of his mother in February 2022 and his refusal to leave the prison to receive condolences.

Therefore, the undersigned organizations call on the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Oxygen, and to stop all forms of abuse against him. They also call on the presidential pardon committee, the National Council for Human Rights, and the Parliament’s Human Rights Committee to intervene to ensure Oxygen’s freedom by ending his prolonged imprisonment.

Signatories:

Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE).

Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR).

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.

Reporters Without Borders.

IFEX.

Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR).

Intersection Association for Rights and Freedoms- Tunisia.

Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms.

Committee for Justice.

Freedom Initiative.

The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP).

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.

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Since the 2013 military ousting of former president Mohamed Morsi, Egypt has been ruled with an iron fist. Authorities have brutally and systematically silenced peaceful dissent, nearly wiped-out independent media and civil society, repressed political opposition, adopted and enacted repressive legislation, jailed tens of thousands of actual or perceived critics and severely undermined the independence of the judiciary and of the legal profession. With very little civic, judicial, or parliamentary scrutiny, the authorities have faced virtually no accountability for their repressive policies and actions. In turn, this has contributed to the government’s failure to respect, protect and fulfil people’s social and economic rights, leading to setbacks for those most affected by the recurring economic crises in the country. From February 2024 onwards, Egypt’s donors including the United Arab Emirates, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the United Kingdom and the European Union provided or pledged around 57 billion USD in grants and loans. As part of this process, donors should ensure that the Egyptian authorities pursue and effectively implement reforms that improve respect for human rights alongside greater transparency and accountability. Donors must also ensure that economic and fiscal measures implemented as part of these programs do not contribute to the further erosion of people’s economic and social rights, especially in light of the continuing rise in poverty rates since the adoption of the first IMF program in 2016, as well as the Egyptian government’s inadequate spending levels on social protection, health and education. Any agreed macroeconomic reforms must reflect and uphold the legal obligations of all parties with regard to economic and social rights, notably in the areas of labour rights and environmental justice, and corporate accountability. We believe that structural reforms to strengthen rule of law, guarantee fair trials, open civic space, uphold the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association and media freedom, and release all those arbitrarily detained, are crucial. Not only would they comply with Egypt’s constitution and international human rights obligations, but they would also address some of the root causes of Egypt’s financial and economic instability. This instability has severely impacted the economic and social rights of millions of people in Egypt, who will ultimately carry the burden of repaying Egypt’s debts, particularly those in vulnerable and marginalised situations. We note that EU regulations require that recipients of macro-financial assistance “adhere to the respect of human rights and effective democratic mechanisms, including a multi-party parliamentary system and the rule of law,” while the European Council stipulated that a precondition for granting the Union’s macro-financial assistance is that “Egypt continues to make concrete and credible steps towards respecting effective democratic mechanisms, including a multi-party parliamentary system, and the rule of law, and guaranteeing respect for human rights.” However, what those “concrete and credible steps” should be is not defined in the Commission’s proposal. As the Commission and Egyptian authorities negotiate Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) to regulate the disbursement of EU funds to Egypt up to 2027, we urge the European Commission, Council and Parliament to ensure that: 1) The MoUs lay out a roadmap for structural reforms, with public, clear, specific and timebound indicators, targets and benchmarks for Egypt to meet its human rights obligations. 2) Egyptian authorities immediately and unconditionally release all those detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their human rights including the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. 3) Egyptian authorities open civic and political space, by respecting the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, including before, during and after the 2025 parliamentary elections. 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