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UK-Based Christian Foundation Condemns Lengthy Detention of Egyptian Freedom Activist

Rami Kamil, founding member and coordinator of the Maspero Youth Union in Egypt has been in police custody since November 2019. Credit: Christian Solidarity Worldwide

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a UK-based human rights foundation, is calling for the release of a Christian man whose detention, the leadership of the foundation says, has been too long and shrouded in “numerous procedural irregularities.”

Rami Kamil was arrested when police raided his house in Cairo during the early hours of 23 November 2019, and has remained in police custody where his detention has been renewed several times.

CSW has reported that a counter terrorism court in Cairo renewed the detention of Egyptian Coptic activist for a further 45 days after a trial on September 6.

In a Friday, September 10 report, the leadership of the UK-based foundation says that Mr. Kamil who is facing terrorism charges is being targeted because of his human rights work documenting violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB).

“For nearly two years the Egyptian authorities have continually extended Mr. Kamil’s detention, seemingly in an effort to penalize him for his work as a human rights defender,” CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas says.

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Mr. Mervyn adds, “We call once again for his (Kamil’s) immediate and unconditional release, and for the release of other human rights defenders who have been subjected to excessive pretrial detention on questionable charges.”

He further urges the Egyptian government to investigate all cases of wrongful imprisonment, and to create an enabling environment for the peaceful promotion and protection of human rights in the country.

Mr. Kamil is a prominent human rights activist and 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.

CSW first reported the arrest of Mr. Kamil on 26 November 2019 and explained that the police who arrested the Coptic activist refused to allow him to change his clothes, carry his medications or speak to a lawyer.

According to the leadership of the foundation that specializes in religious freedom all over the world, authorities also confiscated Mr. Kamil’s laptop, mobile phone, camera, and books.

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Following his arrest, Mr. Kamil was taken to an unknown location, where he underwent intensive interrogation and was subjected to physical and psychological pressure, the leadership of CSW narrates, adding that the activist later appeared before the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) without legal representation, and was given 15 days in pre-trial detention. 

Mr. Kamil was subsequently accused of joining a terrorist organization, receiving foreign funding, disturbing public order, inciting the public against the State, and using social media to incite sectarian tensions between Muslims and Christians.

According to the UK-based Christian organization, Mr. Kamil’s arrest came days after Egypt's human rights record was examined by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), where Egypt received the highest number of recommendations since their Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2010.

“In July 2018 Mr. Kamil accompanied the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Leilani Farha, on a fact-finding visit to Cairo and Minya to investigate the situation of members of the Coptic community who had been displaced from their homes following sectarian incidents,” CSW reported.  

On 20 January 2020, CSW reported that Kamil’s detention had been extended by 15 days after he was interrogated in prison by prosecutors.

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The foundation wrote about the activist, saying, “He has reportedly been told to stop writing about violations of freedom of religion or belief if he wants to be released.”

Mr. Kamil studied law at university and operated a tailoring shop before he was arrested at the age of 33.

“He is the breadwinner for his family, which consists of his elderly mother, a single sister, and a married sister with two young children whose husband is reportedly debilitated,” CSW leadership reported.

The human rights organization has described conditions inside Torrah Prison where Mr. Kamil is currently being held as harsh, especially in winter.

Sources who spoke to the foundation reported that the intelligence officers asked Mr. Kamil to stop writing about FoRB violations if he wants to be released. 

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CSW notes that prison authorities have, however, accepted the request of the activist’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.