Cairo public prosecutor orders release of activist Ramy Shaath

Amnesty and other human rights bodies had called for release of Egyptian-Palestinian rights campaigner

Cairo’s public prosecutor has ordered the release of prominent Egyptian-Palestinian rights activist Ramy Shaath 2½ years after being jailed for aiding a terrorist organisation.

A pacifist, Mr Shaath (50) helped organise Egypt's 2011 uprising which ousted 30-year president Hosni Mubarak, and served as co-ordinator of the Egyptian branch of the Palestinian Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement to pressure Israel to grant Palestinians human, political and national rights.

On Monday, Reuters news agency reported judicial sources as saying proceedings had begun to free Mr Shaath who, on release, would be deported to France to join his wife, French national Celine Lebrun.

Mr Shaath was arrested without a legal warrant on July 5th, 2019, by a dozen security agents who searched his flat and took away documents, mobile phones and computers. His wife, who was present, was expelled to France from where she has led the campaign to free her husband.


Last year the UN Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights called for Mr Shaath to be removed from Egypt's "terrorist" list and released immediately. He has been named a "prisoner of conscience" by Amnesty International and his case has been taken up by the Geneva-based World Organisation Against Torture, OMCT, and other human rights bodies.

Shortly after the raid, the OMCT reported he may have been detained in connection with the creation of an umbrella body of political parties and social movements to promote human rights, an activity regarded as “terrorism” by Egyptian state security.

Promoting BDS

However, a month after his arrest, his father Nabil Shaath told the New Arab website his son had been detained for promoting BDS and criticising Egypt's participation in the June 2019 workshop in Bahrain. This was intended to launch the Trump administration's failed "Deal of the Century" to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by providing for Palestinian economic advancement while denying them self-determination.

A senior Fatah official and peace negotiator, Dr Shaath was Palestinian foreign minister when president Yasser Arafat visited Ireland in 1996. As Fatah's commissioner of international relations, Dr Shaath returned to Dublin in 2011 on a tour of European capitals to urge recognition of Palestinian statehood.

Thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members, secular dissidents and human rights activists have been jailed since mid-2013 when the military ousted elected president Mohammed Morsi, a Brotherhood veteran who died in prison in June 2019.

Last month, Egypt's state security court sentenced another high-profile dissident, Alaa Abdel Fattah, to five years in prison and rights lawyer Mohammed al-Baqer and blogger Mohammed Ibbrahim to four years. All three were accused of "spreading false news undermining national security".

Like Ramy Shaath, they were arrested in 2019 and held longer than legally allowed in pre-trial detention.

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen contributes news from and analysis of the Middle East to The Irish Times