Egypt: Ten Nubian Egyptians arrested in Saudi Arabia one year ago must be released

Press Release

28 July 2021

The undersigned rights organizations condemn the ongoing detention of ten Egyptian citizens belonging to Nubian civic associations in Saudi Arabia. They have been held in Saudi Arabia since July 2020 without investigation, trial, or access to lawyers for exercising their legitimate right to free association and assembly. We further condemn the position of the Embassy of Egypt in Saudi Arabia, which issued an oblique statement essentially absolving itself of any responsibility for the arrested citizens. The embassy has failed to take any direct, clear action securing their release, nor has it even offered legal assistance. We call on the Egyptian government to intervene immediately and press for the unconditional release of the ten detained Egyptian citizens a year after their arrest. 

The arrest last July was the second time the ten Egyptian expatriate citizens were arbitrarily detained; Saudi authorities first arrested them on 25 October 2019, the morning of an event organized by a group of Nubian organizations in Saudi Arabia to commemorate Nubian heroes in the 1973 October War. At that time, the detainees were interrogated about why a photo of current Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was not displayed at the event. The president did not take part in the 1973 war and the photos displayed at the event were limited to soldiers from Nubian regions who had been involved in the war. 

After the first arrest, the Egyptian embassy issued a statement absolving itself of responsibility for the arbitrarily imprisoned citizens and their organizations, stating that ‘regulations and statutes in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia bar the establishment of associations or entities by resident expatriate communities or any activities by them.’ Claiming that the case was security-related rather than criminal, the embassy refused to take any action. The objective of those Nubian associations—active in Saudi Arabia for many years—is to promote communal ties and social solidarity among Nubians abroad; they are not involved in any political or partisan activity, much like the many other similar associations operating in the Kingdom for years.

Although the detainees were initially released ten months later, on 25 December 2019, the General Directorate for Investigations, which is part of the Saudi state security apparatus, arrested them again on 14 July 2020. Since that time, they have neither been questioned nor allowed to meet with their lawyers; they have also been denied family visits and are permitted only one phone call per week. Four months after their arrest, they were moved from the Ha’ir Prison in Riyadh to the Asir Prison in Abha. Their families have contacted Egyptian government officials, among them the minister of immigration and the deputy minister of foreign affairs, both of whom affirmed that they were following the case, although no concrete intervention has been forthcoming. The families further filed complaints with the Cabinet, also to no avail. 

The undersigned rights organizations reaffirm the right of these ten Egyptian citizens to a fair trial and condemn their continued imprisonment without due process. We call on the Egyptian government to take immediate action securing their release while holding the authorities of Saudi Arabia responsible for their safety and lives. 

Signatory organizations

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies 

Nadeem Center

Freedom Initiative 

Egyptian Front for Human Rights 

Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights 

Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression