Haitham Mohamedain must be freed

May 23, 2018

Human rights campaigner and labor lawyer Haitham Mohamedain was arrested on May 18 and has been ordered into custody for 15 days. His crime? Inciting protests against the fare hikes on Cairo’s mass transit system. The Egyptian regime previously detained Mohamedain, who is affiliated with Egypt’s Revolutionary Socialists, along with more than 100 other activists two years ago. With growing economic discontent amid persistent high unemployment, high food prices and low wages, the regime is clearly nervous about the potential for a fresh outbreak of protest.

In response to Mohamedain’s arrest, activists around the world, including the Egypt Solidarity Initiative and Amnesty International, are calling on the Egyptian government to immediately and unconditionally release him. Here are three posts published in recent days by the Egypt Solidarity Initiative explaining what is known about Mohamedain’s arrest and detention, and calling for people to sign a petition on his behalf.

Lawyer Haitham Mohamedain arrested by security forces

LABOR LAWYER and activist Haitham Mohamedain was seized by Egyptian security forces early on May 18, according to local media reports and human rights activists. National Security officers and police were reported to have stormed his house, taking him away to an unknown location.

Haitham has been the target of repression by the Egyptian state many times in the past. He was one of over a thousand arrested in the crackdown over protests against the sell-off of the Tiran and Sanafir Islands by the Egyptian government to Saudi Arabia in April 2016. He is one of Egypt’s best-known labor lawyers, and an activist with the Revolutionary Socialists. He has worked tirelessly to defend striking workers from attack by the state and employers, both on the picket line and in the courtroom, representing bus workers, health workers, steel workers and rail workers, as well as victims of police torture and abuse. He was arrested previously in September 2013 while on the way to represent steel workers in Suez who had been arrested after the police attacked their sit-in, sparking an international solidarity campaign supported by the leaders the UK trade union movement.

Haitham Mohamedain
Haitham Mohamedain (Gigi Ibrahim)

Amnesty calls for immediate release of Haitham Mohamedain

FEARS WERE mounting for Egyptian trade union lawyer and activist Haitham Mohamedain following his arrest from him home in the early hours of Friday, May 18. Over 24 hours since National Security officers and police stormed his home, there has been no confirmation of his whereabouts.

In a strongly worded statement issued on Friday night, Amnesty International condemned Haitham’s arrest and incommunicado detention, calling for his immediate release. Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director said:

The Egyptian authorities are known for using arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance to punish human rights lawyers and members of the opposition. As such there is a real possibility he is being ill-treated in detention by the authorities right now. We call on the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Haitham Mohamedain and to provide information about his whereabouts and well-being.

Haitham’s arrest was linked to his work as a lawyer defending workers’ rights and supporting organizations such as El Nadeem Centre, a respected human rights NGO which works with victims of torture and violence. Bounaim said:

What you can do

Sign this petition calling on the Egyptian to immediately and unconditionally release labor lawyer Haitham Mohamedain and to drop any charges against him.

This appears to be yet another attack on the right to freedom of expression and association. It is a reminder of the incredible obstacles faced by those who are striving to defend the human rights of the Egyptian people. Instead of arresting Egyptians who stand up for the human rights of others, the authorities must work with these activists and enable their work.

Trade unionists, members of parliament, writers and academics have launched a protest statement calling for the immediate release of Egyptian labor lawyer Haitham Mohamedain, who was seized by the security forces from his home on May 18. Haitham appeared in court the following day and was remanded in custody for 15 days to face interrogation on charges of “inciting protests over the price of Metro tickets.” His detention follows a wave of arrests in the wake of demonstrations against the sharp rise in fares on Cairo’s underground railways.

Freedom for Haitham Mohamedain — Stop the repression in Egypt

EARLY ON Friday, May 18, Egyptian security forces stormed the house of labor lawyer and socialist activist Haitham Mohamedain, taking him away to an unknown destination. Haitham is a well-known defender of workers’ rights, and has worked tirelessly to support independent trade unionists facing state persecution for demanding better working conditions and the right to organize and strike. In addition, as Amnesty International notes, he “has been persecuted by the Egyptian authorities for his human rights work”, playing a crucial role in defending the El Nadeem Centre — which supports victims of torture and violence — from harassment and persecution by the authorities.

On Saturday, May 19, Haitham appeared in court and was remanded in custody for 15 days. According to reports from human rights activists in Egypt, he is being interrogated in relation to “incitement to protest over the price of Metro tickets.”

Some who allegedly protested over a recent abrupt rise in fares have been arrested and some subsequently released: others are still being held. It appears that Egypt’s security services have used the opportunity to seize Haitham Mohamedain: we believe that his arrest is designed, once again, to silence voices critical of the current military regime.

We are deeply concerned for Haitham’s well-being, given the well-documented pattern of abuse and torture of detainees by Egyptian security forces. We are appalled that anyone should face detention and prosecution on charges of speaking out for basic human rights. We call on the Egyptian authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally, and for any charges against him to be dropped.

Initial signatories include:

Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor Emeritus, MIT, USA
Elias Khoury, Novelist and Academic, Lebanon
Professor Clément Mouhot, University of Cambridge, UK
Ian Hodson, National President, Bakers’, Food & Allied Workers Union, UK
Professor Gilbert Achcar, SOAS University of London, UK
Professor James Dickins, University of Leeds, UK
Professor Alex Callinicos, King’s College London, UK
Professor Malcolm Povey, University of Leeds, UK
Professor Khaled Fahmy, University of Cambridge, UK
Dr. Tim Pringle, SOAS University of London, UK
Dr. Yasser Munif, Emerson College, Boston, USA
Professor Nadje Al-Ali, SOAS University of London, UK
Richard Boyd Barrett, People Before Profit TD, Dun Laoghaire, Ireland
Bríd Smith, People Before Profit TD, Dublin South Central, Ireland
Gino Kenny, People Before Profit TD, Dublin Mid-West, Ireland
Gerry Carroll, People Before Profit MLA, Belfast, Ireland
Eamonn McCann, journalist and author, Derry, Ireland
Dr. Peadar O’Grady, Consultant Child Psychiatrist, Dublin, Ireland
Cllr Matt Collins, People Before Profit, Belfast City Council, Ireland
Cllr Tina MacVeigh, People Before Profit, Dublin City Council, Ireland
Cllr John Lyons, People Before Profit, Dublin City Council, Ireland
Cllr Emma Hendrick, People Before Profit, South Dublin County Council, Ireland
Dr. John Molyneux, retired lecturer and author, UK
Dr. Anne Alexander, University of Cambridge, UK
Kieran Allen, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, University College Dublin, Ireland
Dr. Adam Hanieh, SOAS University of London, UK
Alan Wald, H. Chandler Davis Collegiate Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan, USA
Dr. Bashir Abu-Manneh, Reader in Postcolonial Literature, University of Kent, UK
Professor Philip Marfleet, University of East London, UK
Dr. Carlo Morelli, University of Dundee and UCU NEC member, UK
Professor Ziad Elmarsafy, King’s College London, UK
Dr. Nicola Pratt, University of Warwick, UK
Professor Alfredo Saad Filho, SOAS University of London, UK
Professor Mark Zeitoun, University of East Anglia, UK
Professor John Chalcraft, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), UK
Lorenzo Feltrin, University of Warwick, UK
Professor Ray Bush, University of Leeds, UK
Khaled Eissa, King’s College, London, UK
Rima Majed, American University of Beirut, Lebanon
Dr. Waseem Yaqoob, University of Cambridge, UK
Dr. Rasha Soliman, University of Leeds, UK
Suzan Gibril, Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium

First published at Egypt Solidarity Initiative.

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