Imprisoned journalist and researcher Hesham Gaafar’s wife has launched a bid for his membership on the Journalist Syndicate board.
Manar Tantawy, Gaafar’s wife, submitted candidacy documents on his behalf on Wednesday to the committee supervising the syndicate’s midterm elections, which are slated to take place in early March.
Tantawy told Mada Masr that the elections committee voiced objections to Gaafar’s prospective candidacy because of his detention, yet her lawyer assured her that there is no legal impediment to him running, according to the syndicate’s bylaws, as Gaafar is being held in remand detention and has not been convicted of a crime.
Gaafar “retains the right to exercise all his political rights because no judicial verdict has been issued against him until now, nor has he been brought to trial,” she said.
As such, the board accepted the submission and will refer it to the syndicate’s legal advisor for consultation.
Although the journalist’s wife has not been allowed to visit him since December 21, 2017, she said that she knows that he would have agreed for her to submit documents on his behalf.
Gaafar was arrested on October 21, 2015 after security forces raided the headquarters of the Mada Foundation for Media Development (not to be confused with this publication), an organization that he founded in 2010 as an NGO licensed under the Ministry of Social Solidarity.
The foundation’s work focused on training and awareness campaigns in the fields of women’s issues and sectarianism. Several of the Mada Foundation’s projects were implemented in cooperation with state institutions, such as Al-Azhar, as well as national councils, such as the National Population Council.
The Supreme State Security Prosecution has levied a number of charges against Gaafar, including joining the Muslim Brotherhood and receiving an international bribe.
Gaafar has been behind bars for over three years, in violation of Article 143 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which caps remand detention at two years. His lawyer, Mohamed al-Baqer, says prosecutors have not provided evidence to support any of the charges and have not even identified the source of the bribe that Gaafar allegedly received.
Gaafar’s health has severely deteriorated as prison authorities have long refused him medical care for dysplasia in his optic nerve and an enlarged prostate, according to his wife.
On Thursday, Gaafar was finally allowed to go to hospital where he underwent a prostatectomy at Manial University hospital under heavy guard, Tantawy said. Tantawy was not allowed to see or talk to her husband nor was she permitted to speak with any of the doctors who performed the surgery.
The operation came after Tantawy called on the National Council for Human Rights and the Journalists Syndicate in January to intervene and demand prison authorities allow Gaafar receive the surgery. Seven months ago, in July 2018, a doctor at Tora Prison hospital issued a medical report in which he confirmed Gaafar’s need for urgent surgery.