The detention of Egyptian Coptic activist Rami Kamil, who is facing terrorism charges, has been extended by 15 days after he was interrogated in prison by prosecutors. He has reportedly been told to stop writing about violations of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) if he wants to be released.
Mr Kamil, 33, is a prominent human rights activist who took part in the 2011 uprising, in which the government of Hosni Mubarak was overthrown, and the events that followed it. He is a founding member and coordinator of the Maspero Youth Union, a Coptic human rights group that emerged following the Maspero massacre of October 2011, in which over 20 Coptic protesters were killed when the military attacked a peaceful civil rights protest.
He was arrested when police raided his house in Cairo during the early hours of 23 November, and is facing terrorism-related charges.
Following his arrest, Mr Kamil was taken to an unknown location, where he underwent intensive interrogation and was subjected to physical and psychological pressure. His lawyers were not allowed to attend the interrogations and have demanded his immediate release due to a lack of evidence against him.
Mr Kamil later appeared before the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) without legal representation, and was given 15 days in pre-trial detention. He was subsequently accused of “joining a terrorist organisation, receiving foreign funding, disturbing public order, inciting the public against the state, and using social media to incite sectarian tensions between Muslims and Christians.”
The conditions inside Torrah Prison where Mr Kamil is currently being held are harsh, especially in winter. According to credible sources, intelligence officers asked Mr Kamil to stop writing about FoRB violations if he wants to be released. However, prison authorities accepted the request of Mr Kamil’s lawyers to allow him access to Coptic mass and communion, and he was able to attend a Coptic mass on 31 December 2019 and a Coptic communion on 6 January 2020.
CSW sources report that his next hearing is scheduled for 19 January.
Mr Kamil studied law at university and runs his own tailoring shop. He is the breadwinner for his family, which comprises his elderly mother, a single sister, and a married sister with a disabled husband and two young children.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “CSW is deeply concerned that Mr Kamil’s detention has been extended. We urge the Egyptian government to immediately and unconditionally release him and others who are currently detained for advocating for human rights. The charges levelled against Mr Kamil are excessive and his detention lacks transparency. We call upon the Egyptian administration to accelerate efforts to reform and improve the situation of religious freedom in Egypt. Instead of criminalising human rights activists, the Egyptian authorities should focus its efforts and resources on combating extremism and assisting those who have been affected by it.”