Political Prisoner Mahmoud Hussein Exceeds 2 Years in Pretrial Detention

(January 25, 2016 | Washington, DC) As of today, twenty-year old Mahmoud Mohamed Ahmed Hussein, who is represented by Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights before the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), has spent two full years in pretrial detention in Egypt without charge or being referred to trial. While already excessive under international human rights law, Mahmoud’s continued detention after two years now stands in violation of Egypt’s own domestic law.

“Mahmoud never should have spent even one day in jail,” said Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “After exploiting Egyptian law to arbitrarily detain Mahmoud for two years, the Egyptian government no longer has any colorable excuse to keep him behind bars, and his continued detention only serves to highlight the Egyptian government’s attempts to silent peaceful dissent at all cost, in flagrant violation of universally accepted human rights and the rule of law.”

Mahmoud was first arrested on January 25, 2014 as an 18 year old student who had been participating in a peaceful protest commemorating the third anniversary of the January 25 Revolution. He was stopped by police at a checkpoint in El-Marg, Cairo while wearing a January 25 Revolution scarf and a “nation without torture” t-shirt. When he asked why he was being detained, Mahmoud was beaten by plainclothes officers and dragged to the police station. There, he was subjected to at least 4 hours of beatings, received electric shocks to the back, hands, and testicles, and was tortured to falsely confess to possessing Molotov cocktails and hand grenades, belonging to a “terrorist” group, protesting without authorization, and receiving money to protest.

Article 143 of the Egyptian Criminal Procedure Code sets forth a maximum of two years in pretrial detention for cases of first review that carry death or life imprisonment sentences. Egyptian authorities have increasingly abused this provision to disproportionately punish individuals critical of government and other prisoners of conscience in violation of international human rights law. When a detainee reaches two years in pretrial detention prior to sentencing and the case is not an appeal or retrial, domestic law mandates that detainee’s release. In practice, the broad discretion granted to judges by vague language within the Criminal Procedure Code has been repeatedly exploited, and there are at least 700 detainees who remain in pretrial detention in excess of this two year maximum. Today, Mahmoud joins their ranks.

“As a young, peaceful protester unaligned with any political party in Egypt, Mahmoud represents the thousands of pretrial detainees in Egypt’s jails who have been subject to torture, detention without charge, and unacceptable conditions,” said Wade McMullen, Managing Attorney at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “We call upon the Egyptian authorities to release Mahmoud immediately and amend its criminal procedure provisions which enable the baseless and continued detention of human rights defenders like Mahmoud.”

As per the most recent official Egyptian Prison Authority count announced in December 2014, out of 12,800 persons detained since June 2013, 7,389 were still being held in pretrial detention; the United States Department of State reports that this number alone reflects a 360% increase over the prior year’s estimate of pretrial detainees. With local organizations suggesting that the total number of detainees is closer to 40,000 and no reported change in detention trends in the time since, the number of pretrial detainees is likely to be even higher.