Egyptian Government Urged to Immediately Release Detained Egyptian Ahmadis… Emergency Law Used To Detain Citizens For Two Months Because Of Their Religious Beliefs

Press Release

14 May 2010

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) today urged the Minister of Interior to release immediately nine Egyptians detained under the Emergency Law for two months because of their affiliation with the Ahmadi confession. The organization called on the Public Prosecutor to order an end to the Supreme State Security Prosecutor’s investigation of all detainees on charges of “contempt of religions” and hold to account those officials responsible for the arrest and interrogation of citizens solely for exercising their constitutional right to freedom of belief and expression.

“The use of the Emergency Law to detain citizens because of their religious affiliation blatantly contradicts government claims that the infamous law is used solely in crimes involving terrorism or drug trafficking,” said Adel Ramadan, the EIPR’s legal officer. “The government must immediately stop punishing people because they hold certain religious beliefs. The Public Prosecutor should issue clear directives to all prosecutors banning the use of the notorious charge of “contempt of religions” to interrogate individuals about their religious beliefs. This is a flagrant violation of their right to freedom of religion and belief.”

In the early hours of Monday, 15 March 2010, State Security Investigations (SSI) officers carried out an arrest campaign targeting members of the Ahmadi faith in the five governorates of Cairo, Qalyoubiya, Monufiya, Minya and Sohag. In the course of this campaign, nine individuals were detained and many books and computers were confiscated. Information received by the EIPR indicates that four others were arrested in the arbitrary sweep, but they were released a few days later. The same sources that spoke to the EIPR said that the remaining nine detainees were held in SSI headquarters in various governorates for up to six weeks without appearing before any judicial body or being charged with a crime. In late April, the detainees were brought before the Supreme State Security Prosecutor’s office, which began investigating them on charges of showing contempt for the Islamic religion, a crime under Article 98(f) in the Penal Code. The case is registered as no. 357/2010; the detainees were placed in the Istiqbaal Tora Prison and one of them is due for interrogation again tomorrow, Saturday.

On 12 May, SSI officers arrested the wife of one of the detainees in the case. The next morning, she was brought before the Supreme State Security Prosecutor’s office, who also charged her with showing contempt for religion after asking her several specific questions about her religious beliefs and her affiliation with the Ahmadi confession. An EIPR lawyer attended the interrogation and demanded her release, arguing that the clause on showing contempt for religion is unconstitutional. The lawyer pointed out that the suspect could not be asked about her religious beliefs as this violated constitutional protections for freedom of belief and personal freedom, upheld by Articles 41 and 46 of the Constitution. He added that the penal provision in question also failed to conform to the basic criteria of any penal statute—namely, clarity, certainty and decisiveness. The prosecutor ordered the release of the suspect but only after scheduling a second interrogation with her on Sunday, 16 May.

“The arrest and interrogation of the Ahmadis is only the latest instance of the security apparatus’s abuse of the shameful, vague and unconstitutional provision on ‘contempt of religions,’” said Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher with the EIPR’s Freedom of Religion and Belief Program. “These arbitrary campaigns will not stop as long as this statute remains in the Penal Code, officials responsible for violations of the freedom of religion and belief are not held to account and, of course, as long as the state of emergency continues, which permits further unchecked abuses.”

For more information, please contact Adel Ramadan (Arabic) at: (+20) (0) 10 2423673 or Soha Abdelaty (Arabic and English): (+20) (0) 12 3107147.