Statement On Hossam Bahgat
Mr. LEAHY. In June of this year, Egyptian prosecutors opened a criminal investigation concerning human rights defender Hossam Bahgat, in relation to a December 2020 tweet criticizing Egypt’s flawed parliamentary elections. The acts he has been accused of would not be considered crimes in the United States, nor in any other country that respects freedom of expression.
Hossam Bahgat is the Executive Director and founder of one of the most respected Egyptian human rights organizations, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR). His work has been recognized around the world, and in April 2021, Mr. Bahgat met with Secretary of State Blinken as part of a group of leading human rights activists. Other EIPR employees have also been targeted, along with many others as part of the government’s crackdown on independent civil society organizations. In February of 2020, EIPR researcher Patrick George Zaki was forcibly disappeared and reportedly tortured. A year ago, three of EIPR’s senior employees, Gasser Abdel-Razek, Karim Ennarah, and Mohamed Basheer, were also arbitrarily detained, effectively silencing them.
Mr. Bahgat faces up to three years in prison and almost $20,000 in fines for reportedly doing nothing more than expressing views the Egyptian authorities consider to be “insulting” or “false news”. This is not the first time Mr. Bahgat has been targeted for his courageous and important reporting. In 2015, he was detained for three days after reporting on officers convicted of planning a coup, and was only released when the case received international attention from human rights groups and the United Nations.
I have consistently spoken out about human rights in Egypt and in other countries, especially when governments crack down on human rights activists. The State Department publicly expressed concern in July of this year. Today, I am adding my voice to others who have raised concerns about Mr. Bahgat’s wrongful detention. A verdict in his case may be imminent. I hope the Egyptian government will abandon its persecution of Hossam Bahgat and his fellow human rights defenders. Like the Department of State, I have been urging the Egyptian authorities to make progress on human rights so our two countries can expand cooperation in other important areas. Further attempts to silence Mr. Bahgat and the other EIPR employees will needlessly impede those efforts.
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