Egypt’s Targeting Of Human Rights Defenders Is No Way to Fight Terrorism
WASHINGTON — Sentencing human rights defenders (HRDs) to long terms in prison is no way to confront terrorism, Human Rights First said today in response to the conviction of leading Egyptian human rights defender Bahey eldin Hassan to 15 years in jail on terrorism charges.
“If you’re serious about fighting terrorists you don’t use terrorism courts to target human rights activists,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “Washington has a leading part to play in steering the Cairo government off this path of crushing peaceful dissent, but the Trump administration seems keen to avoid its responsibilities to do that.”
The Egyptian government relies on support from the U.S. government, which for many years has routinely given the Cairo regime $1.3 billion annually in mostly military aid.
Hassan, a veteran and internationally known HRD, was given the sentence in absentia by Cairo’s Fifth Circuit Terrorism Court yesterday on fabricated charges including “insulting the judiciary.” Human Rights First has worked closely with Hassan for decades, and witnessed how the Egyptian authorities have harassed and threatened him for his human rights work.
“The U.S. government should strongly condemn this sentence and the smearing of HRDs in Egypt as terrorists. This is counterproductive to the fight against terrorism, as is torturing prisoners,” said Dooley.
Last year, Human Rights First released a report detailing the widespread torture of prisoners in Egypt’s jails, and how ISIS was capitalizing on the abuse to recruit new members inside the country’s prisons.
The Egyptian authorities are deliberately and dangerously mixing legitimate, peaceful, human rights work with terrorism. Washington should stop enabling that counterproductive strategy, and tell the Cairo government to stop targeting HRDs, said Human Rights First.