PEN International welcomes the news that blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah and writer Hesham Gaafar have been released from prison in Egypt after several years behind bars for their peaceful expression.
On 28 March 2019, Abd El Fattah was released after serving a five-year sentence. On 27 March 2019, the Cairo Criminal Court ordered the release of Gaafar who has been held in pre-trial detention since his arrest on 21 October 2015. Gaafar has been released on 6 April 2019 upon completion of his release procedures. Both writers were targeted on charges related to their peaceful activism and writings critical of the Egyptian authorities.
However, the release of both writers is conditional and comes with certain restrictions. According to a report, Abd El Fattah must sleep every night at a local police station, while Gaafar has to present himself daily to a local police station.
“We are delighted about the release of Abd El Fattah and Gaafar. However, we call on the Egyptian authorities to lift all restrictions on their release immediately and to ensure the full respect of their rights. Furthermore, all other writers unfairly imprisoned in Egypt must be released immediately,” said Carles Torner, PEN International Executive Director.
PEN International has been campaigning for the release of both Abd El Fattah and Gaafar throughout their imprisonment. Click here to read more about our action on behalf of Gaafar and here on behalf of Abd El Fattah.
The situation for freedom of expression and opinion in Egypt has deteriorated sharply since Abdel Fattah al-Sisi assumed the presidency in 2014; many journalists and writers have been arrested or forced to flee the country. At its 84th Congress held in September 2018, the Assembly of Delegates of PEN International passed a Resolution on Egypt noting with concern the rise in the number of writers and journalists who have been detained or imprisoned solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression, association, and assembly, including for journalistic, artistic, or human rights work.
Click here to read more about PEN International’s work on Egypt.