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New Home for Many Egyptian Academics: Jail

Endangered Scholars Worldwide is deeply concerned about the arbitrary arrest and sentencing of Cairo University academics Hasan Nafaa, Hazem Hosni, Magdi Kerqar, and Ahmad Helmy Hamdun in the aftermath of the September protests against the Egyptian government.


Cairo University | Photo: AFP

Professor Hasan Nafaa is a highly respected political scientist and commentator. According to Al Jazeera, Nafaa’s arrest took place after a media smear campaign against him, which aired a leaked recording of a phone call between Nafaa and a journalist asking him to appear in a documentary produced in cooperation with Al-Jazeera. Nafaa is accused of publishing fake news and of incitement against the Egyptian state.


According to the New York Times, the day before Nafaa’s arrest, he wrote a Facebook post that contended in part that “I have no doubt that the continuation of Sisi’s [the Egyptian president] absolute rule will lead to catastrophe, and that Egypt’s interest requires that he leave office as soon as possible, but he will not step down without popular pressure from the street.” Following the arrest, Nafaa was taken for a long interrogation session that ended in his being sent to the State Security Court on September 26. The Court sentenced him to 15 days in Tura prison for “participating in a terrorist group,” “spreading false news,” and using social media to spread rumors.


According to the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, the public prosecutor levied additional charges against Nafaa on October 5, 2019, and on October 6, Nafaa was detained for an additional 15 days. As of this report, Nafaa remains in prison.


Hazem Hosni, a professor of economics and political science, was also arrested on September 24, 2019, and later sentenced to 15 days in prison for “participating in a terrorist group,” “spreading false news,” and using social media to spread rumors. In addition, he has been accused of “using his personal online profile to publish rumors which endanger public safety, spread terror among the population, and harm the public interest.” Like Nafaa, Hosni also had written a Facebook post criticizing President Sisi’s regime in the days immediately preceding his arrest. Professor Hosni has actively participated in electoral politics, serving as the spokesperson for the presidential campaign of former Egyptian military chief of staff Sami Anan, who was imprisoned two months before the March 2018 presidential elections and remains in custody.


Another Cairo University professor active in electoral politics, professor of urban planning Magdi Kerqar, has also been arrested. At least 19 other leaders and members of the party were arrested around the same time as Kerqar. Finally, Ahmad Helmy Hamdun, a teaching assistant in the department of economics and political science, was arrested on September 26, 2019 while sitting with his brother, Mohamed Helmy Hamdun, and his sister-in-law, Asmaa Dabees, a well-known feminist and founder of the group “Daughter of the Nile,” in a cafe in Damanhour. They were taken forcibly into a van outside the cafe by men in civilian clothing and remained incommunicado with their whereabouts unknown for five days. On October 1, all three of them were sentenced to 15 days in jail. As of this report, they remain in prison.


Endangered Scholars Worldwide deplores and condemns the detention of Hasan Nafaa, Hazem Hosni, Magdi Kerqar, and Ahmad Helmy Hamdun and calls upon all international organizations, academic and professional associations, and other groups and individuals devoted to the promotion and defense of human rights to protest and condemn these arbitrary incarcerations and to call for the academics’ immediate release and the dropping of all charges against them.