Human rights defender Gamal Eid (second from right) leaves a Cairo courtroom on April 20, 2016. (AFP)
Human rights defender Gamal Eid (second from right) leaves a Cairo courtroom on April 20, 2016. (AFP)

Egyptian press freedom advocate faces life in prison

New York, August 12, 2016–Egyptian authorities should immediately drop all charges against award-winning human rights defender Gamal Eid, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Among the accusations prosecutors have leveled against the veteran free expression advocate is the false claim that CPJ paid him to defame Egypt internationally.

In court documents which CPJ has reviewed, Egypt’s domestic intelligence agency, the Department of National Security, alleged that Eid and the group he founded, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), illegally received funding from human rights organizations, including CPJ, in order to implement an agenda of “inciting public opinion against state institutions,” and to “falsely claim in international forums that the country’s legal system restricts public freedoms.”

“This trial is a transparent attempt to silence Egyptian civil society and critical journalists,” CPJ’s Executive Director Joel Simon said. “The allegations that the Committee to Protect Journalists provided financial support to Gamal Eid or his organization are false and utterly without merit. Given the defendants’ fearless and committed defense of the most vulnerable in Egypt and the region, we find this entire legal process to be outrageous and deeply chilling.”

Eid also denied the accusations in a statement published on ANHRI’s Facebook page in May 2016.

Eid is next scheduled to appear in a Cairo criminal court on August 15, along with investigative journalist and rights activist Hossam Bahgat and others, Eid told CPJ. Bahgat and Eid are both banned from travel, and their assets have been frozen, CPJ has reported.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi in September 2014 amended article 78 of Egypt’s Penal Code to increase the maximum penalty to life in prison for receiving money from abroad “with the aim of pursuing acts harmful to national interests, or destabilizing general peace or the country’s independence and unity.”

The case against Eid is part of the re-opening of a five-year-old investigation into the foreign funding of human rights organizations in Egypt and a widely documented crackdown against national and international nongovernmental organizations operating in Egypt.