The Association for the Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) calls upon the Attorney General to release Patrick George, the researcher for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and conduct an immediate investigation into his enforced disappearance and torture by the National Security Agency. AFTE condemns the practices of the National Security, which has, early in the morning of Friday, February 7, stopped Patrick at Cairo airport on his return home from Italy, where he’s studying for a postgraduate degree at the University of Bologna.
George was detained for more than 24 hours in one of the National Security premises in Cairo. The officers illegally interrogated him and prevented him from communicating with his family and lawyer; later he was transferred to Mansoura Prosecution where he appeared yesterday. According to the statement of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the prosecution decided to detain George for 15 days pending investigation in Mansoura second administrative Case No. 7245 of 2019.
According to George’s lawyer, the prosecution charged him with several accusations including spreading false news and statements, incitement to protest without permission, and incitement to commit terrorist crimes. The charges are based on an arrest warrant issued in December 2019, which means that George’s arrest warrant was issued after his enrollment in the graduate studies at the University of Bologna, which he joined in September 2019.
George’s arrest highlights the practices of the security services against researchers, whether Egyptians or foreigners. Such practices aim to limit the enrollment of Egyptian researchers in foreign universities, and to impose restrictions on their right to freedom of movement. AFTE considers the imprisonment of George as part of a series of violations by the Egyptian authorities towards academic freedom.
It is worth referring here to UNESCO’s recommendation on science and scientific researchers , which stresses the principle of freedom of movement of researchers, and calls on the member states of the organization, including Egypt, to encourage those scientific researchers (or young people aspiring to become scientific researchers) who seek some of their education, training or experience abroad, to return and to work in their home countries, according to Article 11, Paragraph (c). AFTE is concerned that Egyptian researchers abroad will fear from returning to Egypt because of the possibility of facing security pursuits, as in the case of Patrick George.
According to EIPR’s statement, George was beaten and subjected to electric shocks while being interrogated. His lawyer stated that he was transferred from the airport to one of the National Security premises in Cairo and then to the National Security headquarter in Mansoura, where he appeared before the Public Prosecutor. This requires that the Public Prosecution conduct an immediate investigation into these accusations, asking Patrick George as a victim of torture in the course of his interrogation by National Security officers.
The security services are used to stopping researchers, journalists, activists, and human rights defenders at Cairo airport. Among those stopped was Bread and Freedom Party member, Mohamed Walid, who was subject in October 2019 to enforced disappearance inside Cairo airport after his passport was stamped; he later appeared before the State Security Prosecution pending a case. In a separate incident, the security services at Cairo Airport confiscated the passport of Rana Mamdouh, a journalist at Mada Masr website, during the completion of her arrival procedures from Jordan, in the beginning of December 2019. AFTE considers these practices a violation of the citizens’ right to freedom of movement, which is guaranteed according to Article (62) of the Egyptian Constitution.
AFTE calls upon all relevant academic institutions to address the Egyptian Public Prosecution regarding the release of Patrick George, demanding that he is allowed to continue his studies abroad, without security restrictions.
 UNESCO Recommendation on Science and Scientific Researchers, adopted on 13 November 2017 by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), link https://bit.ly/2H4K4IT