The arrest of a leading Egyptian women’s rights defender at her home in Cairo on December 7, 2016, represents a serious escalation in the authorities’ ongoing crackdown on independent rights groups, Human Rights Watch said today:
The police took Azza Soliman, a lawyer and founder of the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance, for interrogation before Judge Hisham Abdel Meguid, one of three judges assigned to investigate the foreign funding of independent Egyptian rights groups. Prominent rights activists had previously been summoned for interrogation in the investigation, but it was the first time that judges ordered the arrest of one of those involved in the case.
Soliman was freed on bail late on Wednesday after being accused by an investigating judge of establishing an illegal entity and receiving foreign funding to harm Egypt, her foundation and fellow activists told Reuters:
Soliman, founder of the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA), was freed after paying a 20,000 pound ($1,000) bond, the organization announced on Twitter.
“Azza Soliman’s arrest is the latest chilling example of the Egyptian authorities’ systematic persecution of independent human rights defenders,” said Najia Bounaim, Deputy Campaigns Director at Amnesty International’s Tunis office.
Another Egyptian feminist activist, Mozn Hassan – the recipient of the ‘alternative’ Nobel Peace Prize – lives under the constant threat of persecution and imprisonment, The Financial Times adds:
The 37-year-old founder of Nazra for Feminist Studies lives under the possible threat of a life sentence in jail, as part of a crackdown on those critical of human rights violations by President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi’s restrictive Egyptian government.
The atmosphere for NGO workers in Egypt has become oppressive. Some of Hassan’s friends have been detained. In March, the UN and other international organisations condemned the “persecution” of NGO staff whom the state accuse of disrupting unity, causing chaos and implementing the agendas of hostile powers that seek the failure of state institutions.