Human Rights in Egypt: Sentence Against Detained Central European University Student Annulled, New Hearing to Begin

More+More+ ♦ Published: February 21, 2022; 15:35 ♦ (Vindobona)

The four years in prison sentence against Ahmed Samir Santaway, a student and researcher at CEU Central European University in Vienna, has been overturned, but a retrial in Egypt begins today.

An Egyptian prison complex for criminal and political detainees, located in Tora, Egypt. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / Mohamed Ouda, CC BY-SA 4.0

According to Amnesty International, Ahmed Samir Santawy has already spent more than a year unjustly behind bars.

The 30-year-old student at the Central European University in Vienna was detained by authorities on February 1, 2021, while visiting family in Egypt.

For five days, he was detained and interrogated without contact with his family or legal counsel. During the interrogation, he was punched in the head and stomach. Officials questioned him about his studies and academic research.

On June 22, 2021, the Emergency State Security Court sentenced Santawy to four years in prison for "spreading false news on social media."

Now, the case against Ahmed Samir is being reopened following the overturning of his conviction as a result of "false news" and the imposition of the four-year prison sentence by an Emergency State Security Court on February 16, 2022, by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

On the anniversary of Samir's imprisonment, CEU Central European University held a "Free Ahmed Samir! Online Conference."

As one year since Ahmed's disappearance approached, CEU hosted the Free Ahmed Samir! Conference on Academic Freedom in Egypt to consider why university peers are being imprisoned and what can be done about it.

The conference on academic freedom in Egypt brought together a combination of academic experts and insiders to shed light on the mechanisms of academic persecution in Egypt.

Political scientists, anthropologists, and religious studies scholars dissected El-Sisi's regime, with representatives from Amnesty International, the Tahrir Institute and Scholars at Risk offering further insights.

The conference also offered a platform for Ahmed's peers and colleagues who continue to feel the impact of his disappearance.

Amnesty International criticizes the human rights situation in Egypt and demands the unconditional and immediate release of Samir.

Ahmed Samir is a non-violent political prisoner and is being held innocently. All charges against him must be dropped.

A decade after the Arab Spring, the human rights situation in Egypt is at an all-time low. Amnesty highlighted the repressive practices and impunity of Egypt's domestic intelligence agency, the NSA, which seeks to suppress any critical voice in the country. The National Security Agency (NSA) harasses lawyers, activists and human rights defenders to silence them.

Amnesty International Austria