Rights groups, public figures condemn ongoing detention of journalist Hesham Gaafar

A joint statement released by several rights groups and public figures condemned the ongoing detention of journalist Hesham Gaafar, who has now been imprisoned for 100 days.

Gaafar was arrested in October 2015 and his pretrial detention has been renewed seven times since then. He is under investigation for being a member of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and receiving bribes from foreign entities.

The statement released Saturday was endorsed by public figures, including prominent comedian and satirist Bassem Youssef, novelist Alaa Aswany and university professor and activist Laila Soueif.

The statement called for Gaafar’s immediate release and condemned his arrest, saying it was a clear attack on civil society organizations.

Security forces arrested Gaafar while raiding the Mada Foundation for Media Development (not to be confused with this outlet) in October. Gaafar, the director of the foundation’s board of trustees, was taken from his residence, which was also searched by security forces. He was transferred to an unknown location for two days. His whereabouts were discovered by chance and he was subsequently transferred to maximum-security Aqrab Prison.

Gaafar’s lawyers have reportedly been denied access to important information regarding Gaafar’s case, including the exact charges leveled against him. These violations were also condemned in the joint statement released Saturday, citing Article 125 of the Penal Code, which stipulates that a defendant’s lawyer has to right to view all case files and documents pertinent to the case, unless prosecutors and judges agree that access to the case files would jeopardize the ongoing investigation.

The statement also strongly condemned the security practices that led to Gaafar’s arrest, stating, “The pretext for these policies was the fight against terrorism, as well as [maintaing] public security and stability. But these policies have proven unsuccessful in achieving their objectives and have become an excuse to interfere in civil society and take away the right to freedom of expression, in violation of the Egyptian Constitution.”

The statement was signed by prominent rights organizations, including the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information and the Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture, among others.

Gaafar’s detention is set to be reviewed for the eighth time tomorrow. Gaafar’s lawyer previously told Mada Masr that the prosecution can legally extend a defendant’s 15-day pretrial detention up to 10 times.