Egypt’s Foreign Ministry urged the United States to respect the rule of law after calls for Aya Hegazy’s release, claiming allegations against her have been ignored by the US because of her American citizenship.
Hegazy has dual US-Egyptian citizenship and has been detained in Egypt for over two years without trial.
She was arrested in 2014 with her husband Mohamed Hassanein, along with several other staffers from the Belady Foundation, an NGO they founded to support street children. Hegazy and Hassanein face charges of running an unlicensed organization, inciting street children to join pro-Muslim Brotherhood protests and sexually assaulting minors, which Hegazy and her family deny, claiming the couple is being detained on trumped-up charges.
Egypt’s Penal Code sets the limit for pre-trial detention at two years, making Hegazy’s ongoing detention illegal.
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry accused US “official circles” of disrespecting the rule of law, adding that Hegazy has been treated exceptionally well because she is a US citizen.
The White House released a statement on Friday calling for Hegazy’s release after meeting with her family. The statement added that the US government would continue to offer Hegazy consular support. The statement followed a press conference by two US congressmen from Hegazy’s home state Virginia, along with her family, calling for her release.
Congressman Don Beyer called Hegazy a hero, “someone who has championed the neglected,” while congressman Gerry Connolly said the US would not stop advocating for her release despite the special relationship between the US and Egypt.
“The Egyptian government mistakes American resolve,” he stated. “They think that because we care about the broader, 30,000-foot relationship, we won’t get into the nitty-gritty about individual human rights. Wrong. This case will continue to be elevated.”
Hegazy’s detention has been broadly condemned by both national and international rights organizations.
A number of Egyptian NGOs issued a statement in May condemning the continued detention of all the defendants in the case, as well as the state’s practice of pre-trial detention, claiming it is tantamount to a prison sentence that is extended indefinitely through bureaucratic processes, and is “a form of punishment in and of itself, a means to retaliate against activists unrelated to any legal grounds for detention.”
The EuroMed Rights group and the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales also condemned Hegazy’s detention in May.