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Tags: Egypt | Rights Workers

Egypt Orders 3 Arrested Rights Workers Freed, Family Says

Thursday, 03 December 2020 02:01 PM EST

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's chief prosecutor ordered the release of three human rights workers detained last month, the wife of one of the arrested workers said Thursday, amid an unrelenting crackdown on dissent and rights groups in the Arab country.

The three senior staff members of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, or EIPR, were arrested by authorities in November and handed terrorism-related charges after they met with representatives of foreign embassies to discuss the human rights situation in Egypt.

The crackdown on one of the last independent rights groups still operating in Egypt has raised alarm, with international activists, European and U.S. officials and even celebrities calling for the release of the three — EIPR's executive director Gasser Abdel-Razek, Karim Ennarah, the group's criminal justice director, and Mohamed Basheer, its administrative director.

The prosecutor issued the decision to release the three Thursday evening, Abdel-Razek's wife Mariam Korachy said. It was not clear when they would be freed. EIPR said in a tweet that they had received news it could be later Thursday night, though it was still confirming how and when.

It was also not immediately clear if the release meant charges against the three had been dropped. Prosecutors often free activists on bail but keep charges hanging over their heads. The crackdown on the group continues on another front as well, with prosecutors seeking to freeze EIPR’s assets.

There was no immediate public comment from judicial authorities.

The release order comes ahead of a high profile visit next week by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi to France, where he is to meet with President Emmanuel Macron. Rights groups have been calling on Macron, whose government is a major arms supplier to Egypt, to press el-Sissi to free the three and other activists.

The arrests last month came after ambassadors and senior diplomats from 13 Western countries met with EIPR earlier this month for talks that the group said “discussed ways to improve human rights conditions in Egypt.”

Their detention sparked international condemnation, including from the United Nations and several foreign governments. President-elect Joe Biden’s foreign policy adviser Antony Blinken said at the time that “meeting with foreign diplomats is not a crime. Nor is peacefully advocating for human rights.”

The government of el-Sissi, a U.S. ally with deep economic ties to European countries, has been waging the heaviest crackdown on dissent in the Mideast nation's modern history, targeting not only Islamist political opponents but also security pro-democracy activists, journalists and online critics.

Independent local rights groups have largely stopped operating. The 18-year-old EIPR is the most prominent group of the few who are still active, continuing to work on documenting civil rights violations, prison conditions, sectarian violence and discrimination against women and religious minorities.

© Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


MiddleEast
Egypt's chief prosecutor ordered the release of three human rights workers detained last month, the wife of one of the arrested workers said Thursday, amid an unrelenting crackdown on dissent and rights groups in the Arab country. The three senior staff members of the...
Egypt,Rights Workers
453
2020-01-03
Thursday, 03 December 2020 02:01 PM
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