The “Our youth in prisons” campaign has been launched by the Al-Dostour Party, emphasising their rejection of what they described in a Monday statement as “the regime’s unconventional practices and oppressive policies”.
“The state wants to terrorise them and break their will, just as the pre-25 January [Revolution] regime did, with the consent of the judicial system,” the statement read. “All of which was a direct cause of the revolution, as perpetuators of such crimes should be behind bars according to the law, the constitution and international conventions against torture.”
The party started profiling several young detainees, whether under detention and investigation, on trial, or, more importantly, “missing” in alleged claims of kidnapping by state security forces.
Al-Dostour’s official spokesperson, Kaled Daoud, told Daily News Egypt on Tuesday that the campaign’s first phase relies heavily on social media, with information on detainees and human rights violations regularly posted.
“Ironically, we have believed previous presidential promises to reconsider and release young detainees, and sadly we continue to believe those promises,” Daoud said. He added that they still hoped the presidency would fulfil its promise on 6 August, on the occasion of the New Suez Canal’s inauguration.
During public celebrations, the president is accustomed to pardoning prisoners, depending on their charges, the time they spent in jail and their conduct of behaviour during imprisonment. However, those pardons only concern people who have received final verdicts.
Meanwhile, Daoud said the party’s campaign was not necessarily concerned only with youth under temporary detention, but also cases where activists received harsh prison sentences, such as the Shura Council case, and others.
Daoud stated that it covers “basically, all those detained under the controversial Protest Law, and also those who are subject to abuses inside detention places”.
President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has repeatedly spoken about the issue of detained youth, asserting that he was aware that some must be “innocent”, and promised to review their status and release them.
“Every time they give us dates they fail to respect their promise,” Daoud said, adding that it is a duty for the “free” to keep the issue of their colleagues alive, shed light through more regular campaigns, and extend the cause until “our boys and girls are released”.
“We are working with local NGOs and we are constantly at risk of being arrested,” he said.
This comes as on the one hand terrorist attacks frequently occur and reached a new level last month with the assassination of Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat in Cairo. On the other hand, the state is not only increasing security measures, but also making laws stricter.
Several amendments to the Criminal Code are expected to reduce trial periods and allow final verdicts to be issue against defendants in absentia. Moreover, a draft anti-terrorism law has been widely criticised by human rights advocates and journalists. Both laws are under revision in preparation to be issued.
“The state is using the same old method. Whenever they are facing a security problem they tighten up the laws. The security narrative is being used an excuse to ignore the constitution in the law making process,” Daoud commented.
Yet, Daoud remains optimistic regarding the situation of young detainees who peacefully expressed their opinions in public, due to his conviction that such laws should only make matters worse for those involved in terrorism-related cases.
“I believe that it is not wise for the state, under the current circumstances, to increase the frustration of the young, especially that the crackdown on them is being used against the state by violent opponents who threaten our national security,” Daoud said.
The party provided information regarding two men reportedly taken by security officers and whose location remains unknown to the present day. One of them, named Ashraf Shehata, was allegedly arrested on 13 January 2014.
Shehata’s wife has been unable to obtain any information on the whereabouts of her husband, and her requests to security authorities were ignored, Al-Dostour said. Another man, Ahmed El-Sebaey, did not return home after work on 28 June 2015, amid unconfirmed reports he was detained by National Security in Tanta.
“The least we can do is not to remain silent about their cases, especially after we have tried everything from campaigns to hunger strikes,” Daoud concluded.