In a victory for academic freedom, Ahmed Samir Santawy, a graduate student who was recently sentenced to three years in prison by an Egyptian court, was pardoned by the President of Egypt on July 29. Endangered Scholars Worldwide (ESW) has repeatedly protested Santawy’s detainment that was based on false and politically-motivated charges related to his scholarship on women’s reproductive rights and his alleged criticisms of the Egyptian government’s human rights violations. Santawy was held in jail for over 18 months, where he was physically mistreated and denied a fair trial.
A master’s student at Central European University, Santawy was one of seven prisoners granted a presidential pardon, a group which included a journalist and political activist. It remains to be seen, however, if further action will be taken on behalf of the numerous other scholars and students whose academic and civic freedoms were and continue to be repeatedly violated by the Egyptian state. As previously reported by ESW, the Middle East Studies Association has circulated a letter detailing the cases of academics in Egypt whose cases emblematize the state’s persistent attacks on rights to free thought and free expression. Santawy was one such case.
ESW continues to call for the Egyptian government to immediately release and drop the charges against the remaining detained scholars and students, including Ismail Alexandrani, Marwa Arafa, Ahmed Al Tohamy Abdel-Hay, and Patrick George Zaki. We also support the recommendation of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD), which upon declaring that the Egyptian government arbitrarily detained Santawy, has demanded that the authorities provide him with “necessary compensation” and “take necessary measures against those who were responsible for violating his rights.”
While we celebrate Santawy’s freedom and his return to university, ESW urges all international organizations, academic and professional associations, and other groups and individuals devoted to the promotion and defense of human rights to write to the following representatives and to the diplomatic missions of Egypt in your respective countries urging the Egyptian government to drop the charges and immediately release the remaining detainees.
Ambassador Yasser Reda
Egyptian Embassy to the United States
3521 International Ct. NW
Washington DC 20008
Mohamed Fathi Ahmed Edrees
Egyptian Permanent Representative to the United Nations
800 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10017