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UA 131/19
Abgeschlossen am 20. November 2019

Prominent human rights lawyer detained

AI-Index: MDE 12/1140/2019

On 22 September 2019, security officers in plainclothes arrested prominent human rights lawyer and activist, Mahienour el-Masry and bundled her into a minivan, as she left the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) building in Alexandria. An SSSP prosecutor later questioned Mahienour el-Masry on unfounded charges including «aiding a terrorist group in achieving its goals» and «spreading false news» in a case related to the March 2019 anti-government protests. The prosecutor then ordered her detention in Al Qanater women’s prison for 15 days, pending investigations.


On 20 and 21 September 2019, scattered protests broke out in different Egyptian cities calling on President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to resign. The protests are believed to have been sparked by corruption allegations shared by former army contractor Mohamad Ali who has accused army leaders and the president of wasting public money on building luxury properties. Amnesty International has directly documented the arrest of 76 individuals in relation to the protests between 20 and 29 September in six cities. Human rights lawyers working with organizations including the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) and Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) have documented at least 2,300 arrests so far. According to lawyers, scores of detainees have been released without questioning, but many others continue to appear before prosecutors. The wave of arrests rounded up journalists, human rights lawyers, activists, protesters and political figures in a bid to silence critics and deter further protests from taking place. The government has also added the BBC and Al Hurra TV channels to the list of 513 other websites already blocked in Egypt and disrupted online messaging applications to thwart further protests.

Mahienour el-Masry is a prominent human rights lawyer in Alexandria, where she plays a leading role in defending the rights of workers, women and refugees. While in detention in 2014 for exercising her right to freedom of assembly, she was awarded the Ludovic Trarieux Human Rights Prize, given each year to a lawyer working in defence of human rights.

In February 2015, Mahienour el-Masry was sentenced to two years in prison. The sentence was reduced by the appeal court on 11 May 2015 to one year and three months. She was convicted of «protesting without authorization», «damaging police property», «attacking security forces», and «threatening public security»; on the charges stemmed from her participation, on 29 March 2013, in a protest in front of al-Raml Police Station in Alexandria. The protest was in solidarity with lawyers who were detained and interrogated inside the police station and who had accused police officers of verbally and physically attacking them. On 13 August 2016, Mahienour el-Masry was released from jail after serving her prison term of one year and three months.

On 14 June 2016 Mahienour el-Masry, Moataseem Medhat and activists Asmaa Naeem, Walee el-Amry and Ziad Abu el-Fadl participated in a protest in Alexandria against the Egyptian government’s decision to hand over control of two islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. On 18 November 2017, the Montazah Misdemeanour Court in Alexandria ordered the detention of Mahienour el-Masry and Moataseem Medhat until the verdict in December. On 30 December 2017, the same court sentenced both to two years in prison for «participating in an unauthorized protest» and «show of force». The court also sentenced the three other activists to three years in prison, in absentia. On 13 January 2018, the Montazah Misdemeanour Court of Appeals acquitted Mahienour el-Masry and Moataseem Medhat of all charges.

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