Egypt jails CEU student for three years over ‘false news’

Latest ruling against an international student arrested over research upon return to the country is decried as a ‘mockery of justice’ by rector

July 5, 2022
Restrictive fence with barbed wire
Source: iStock

Ahmed Samir Santawy, a master’s student at the Central European University (CEU), has been jailed for three years by an Egyptian court on charges of “spreading false news”.

Mr Santawy was first arrested in February 2021 after returning from Vienna to Egypt to visit his family. He was questioned about his research on women’s sexual and reproductive rights and reportedly blindfolded and beaten by state security officers before being charged in June 2021 with joining a terrorist group and spreading false news about Egypt on social media.

That initial ruling was quashed in February 2022 in what CEU president and rector Shalini Randeria said was “purely a strategic move to quell ongoing protests against Ahmed’s illegal detention”.

On 4 July, his retrial ended in a three-year sentence, a ruling Professor Randeria called “inhumane” and “a mockery of justice”.

A United Nations working group on arbitrary detention concluded in January 2022 that Mr Santawy’s trial and imprisonment were a violation of due process, the right to a fair trial and his right to freedom of expression under both Egyptian and international law.

The master’s student is the latest in a series of international students to face detention under Egypt’s authoritarian government.

Patrick Zaki, a master’s student at the University of Bologna, was arrested in February 2020 and accused of spreading false information about Egypt’s Christians after returning to the country from Italy.

He was released from prison in December 2021, but the charges against him have not been dropped and his trial has been adjourned until September 2022.

Speaking about Mr Santawy’s case, Professor Randeria called on the Egyptian government to act on the UN group’s findings and release Mr Santawy immediately.

Thanking the universities and students’ associations that have pushed for his release, she called on more governments and intergovernmental organisations to join the campaign. “We will not be silenced. We will never give up the fight for his release,” she said.

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