Zyad el-Elaimy, a leader within the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, despite his strong legal defense was sentenced by the Mokattam Misdemeanor Court on Tuesday. El-Elaimy was sentenced to one year in jail with a fine of 20,000 Egyptian pounds (around $1,200 USA dollars) for violating Egypt’s Assembly Law. More specifically, he was sentenced for “spreading false news with an intent to spread panic among the people and disturbing public peace.” These allegations used against el-Elaimy stem from statements he made during a TV interview with BBC Arabic in 2017 where he spoke about politically-inspired imprisonment, enforced disappearance and torture in Egypt that the Assembly Law was enabling.
The Egyptian Government’s press release issued by the Ministry of Interior on June 25, 2019 announced the detaining of individuals including el-Elaimy for orchestrating a plot—referred to as “The Plan for Hope”—to “bring down the state” with the financial support of 19 companies and economic entities managed by Muslim Brotherhood leaders from abroad.
According to human rights researchers this arrest is among many under Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who has relied on the passage of repressive legislation to avoid opposition from political rivals. With public vote on the constitutional amendments looming last April, several opposing party leaders were arrested in an apparent attempt to ensure the passage of such legislative acts.
Such reforms have effectively eliminated the right for Egyptian citizens to peacefully protest. The ability to express opposition through political channels has been effectively removed and deterred through countless arrests of opposition leaders and the placement of political rivals on terrorist watch lists.
El-Elaimy’s case alone resulted in the arrest of at-least 83 political and influential people.
Several non-governmental organizations, including Amnesty International, The World Organization Against Torture and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies have responded with harsh opposition to the decision to arrest and prosecute el-Elaimy since the onset of the case.
Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director zealously declared that:
“It is outrageous that he has been punished with a year’s imprisonment simply for speaking to the media.”
“The unfounded charges of which Zyad has been convicted stem solely from the peaceful expression of his opinion and his peaceful political activities, demonstrating the Egyptian authorities’ total intolerance of dissent.”
“We call on the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Zyad and to drop all charges against him.”
“He is a prisoner of conscience, who has been swept up in Egypt’s ruthless purge of critics and opponents.”
El-Elaimy did appeal his sentence with a hearing set for April 7, 2020. He remains in pre-trial detention pending investigation in the separate “Hope case”, where he is accused – along with other politicians – of “terrorism”-related offences over an attempt to create an electoral alliance during the 2020 parliamentary elections.