Ongoing Judicial Harassment of Khaled Elbalshy
On 21 March 2017, the Qasr El-Nil Misdemeanour's Court sentenced Khaled El-Balshy and his colleagues Yehia Qalash and Gamal Abdul-Rahim to a one-year sentence suspended for the coming three years. The human rights defender is planning to appeal the decision of the court.
On 19 November 2017, the court sentenced the three men to a two-year prison sentence on charges of harbouring journalists who were wanted by Egyptian authorities for expressing critical views against the government.
Khaled Elbalshy is a prominent journalist and board member of Egypt's Press Syndicate and the head of its Freedoms' Committee. He is also the chief editor of the private Al Bedaiah on line newspaper.
- 21 March 2017 : HRD Sentenced to 1 Year in Prison
- 22 November 2016 : Ongoing Judicial Harassment of Human Rights Defenders
- 31 May 2016 : Escalating judicial harassment and travel ban against human rights defenders
- 14 April 2016 : Charges dropped against prominent journalist Khaled Elbalshy
- 4 April 2016 : Arrest warrant issued against journalist Khaled Elbalshy
- 15 October 2015 : Prosecution of journalists Khaled Elbalshy and Rasha Azab
On 21 March, the Qasr El-Nil Misdemeanour's Court sentenced Khaled El-Balshy and his colleagues Yehia Qalash and Gamal Abdul-Rahim to a one-year sentence suspended for the coming three years. The human rights defender is planning to appeal the decision of the court.
On 19 November, the crackdown on the Egyptian human rights movement continued to escalate. The Qasr El-Nil Misdemeanour’s Court in Cairo sentenced Egyptian human rights defender and prominent journalist Mr. Khaled Elbalshy, and two of his colleagues, Yehia Qalash and Gamal Abdul-Rahim, to a two-year prison sentence on charges of harbouring journalists who were wanted by Egyptian authorities for expressing critical views against the government. In a separate incident Egyptian authorities banned Ms. Azza Soliman from travelling to Jordan from Cairo International airport to participate in a training on human rights. On 17 November, Azza Soliman’s personal and organisational bank accounts were frozen by judicial order.
Download the Urgent Appeal (PDF)
On 19 November, the Qasr El-Nil Misdemeanour’s Court sentenced Egypt's Press Syndicate President Yehia Qalash, Secretary General Gamal Abdul-Rahim, and Head of the Freedoms Committee Khaled Elbalshy to two-years imprisonment on alleged charges of sheltering two other journalists wanted by Egyptian authorities for expressing critical views about the government. Yehia Qalash, Gamal Abdul-Rahim and Khaled Elbalshy are currently out on bail, pending appeal. In a statement following the sentence, human rights defender Khaled Elbalshy urged journalists not to be discouraged from continuing their work by this verdict. He then highlighted that there are 28 journalists currently serving prison sentences in Egypt. On 29 May 2016, Egyptian authorities detained the human rights defender on charges of “disseminating false news and rumours” and “sheltering criminals”. Downtown Cairo Prosecution granted the human rights defender EGP10,000 bail, which was paid. He was subsequently released pending trial on 4 June 2016.
On 19 November, while Azza Soliman was at Cairo International airport, Egyptian authorities informed her that she had been issued with a travel ban by judicial order on 17 November. No clarification was provided as to why the order had been issued. She is planning to file a report to the Egyptian Attorney General in order to investigate the legal grounds for the travel ban. This is not the first time that the human rights defender has been subjected to judicial harassment. Azza Soliman was a witness to the murder of activist Shaimaa ElSabbagh, who was killed while peacefully protesting on 24 January 2015. In March 2015, the Qasr El Nile Prosecution Office in Cairo changed Azza Soliman’s status from being a witness to the killing of Shaimaa ElSabbagh to a defendant, accused of protesting illegally. She was acquitted of the charges, which the prosecutor subsequently appealed. However, Azza Soliman’s aquital was upheld in October 2015. On 17 November, Azza Soliman found that both her personal and LJP’s organisational bank accounts had been frozen by judicial order on the basis of her involvement in the 2011 foreign funding case, also known as Case No. 173. Since 2011, 37 Egyptian rights organisations have faced charges under this case, with some leaders and staff members of human rights organizations charged with “receipt of illegal foreign funding” and “working without legal permission”. On 17 September 2016, In connection with this case, an Egyptian court approved a freeze on the assets of five prominent human rights defenders and three leading human rights NGOs. And in May 2016, five other human rights defenders were banned from travel in a wave of harassment against the Egyptian human rights movement.
The judicial harassment against Azza Soliman and Khaled Elbalshy come at a time when Egypt seems to be institutionalising its crackdown on human rights defenders. On 15 November, a highly restrictive draft NGO law was approved by Egyptian parliament for review before the Egyptian Council. The proposed law threatens to imprison human rights defenders and NGO staff from one to five years and fine them between EGP50,000 and EGP1,000,000 if they inter alia facilitate or participate in activities carried out by international organisations without authorisation of the Egyptian authorities, or if they carry out field research and public polls in their capacity as civil society without prior consent. The proposed law would also grant Egyptian authorities control over the establishment of Egyptian NGOs and would also require international NGOs to register with the Egyptian authorities. The draft law also gives Egyptian authorities the power to dictate the location and headquarters of civil society operations, and proposes to imprison human rights defenders for up to one year and fine them between EGP20,000 and EGP500,000 for carrying out “crimes” such as moving the headquarters of the organisation to a place other than what had been previously authorised. The proposed law also places individual liability on government staff members that authorise the work of NGOs in contravention with the aforementioned draft law.
Front Line Defenders condemns the criminalization of civil society in Egypt, including through the imposition of travel bans, the blocking of human rights organisations’ bank accounts and the freezing of their assets. Front Line Defenders calls for an immediate end to the persecution of human rights defenders, reiterating their essential role in the development of a just and equal society, and is also deeply concerned by the new restrictive draft NGO law recently approved by Egyptian Parliament.
Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Egypt to:
1. Drop all charges against Khaled Elbalshy and his colleagues as Front Line Defenders believes the journalists has been targeted solely as a result of its legitimate human rights activities;
2. Immediately and unconditionally remove the travel ban imposed against Azza Soliman and all other human rights defenders facing travel restrictions in Egypt, as Front Line Defenders believes that they are being restricted solely as a result of their legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights;
3. Refrain from adopting the draft NGO law introduced on 14 November before the Egyptian Parliament as it would severely hamper the work of human rights organisations in Egypt;
4. Cease targeting all human rights organisations and human rights defenders in Egypt and guarantee in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
On 29 May 2016, Egyptian authorities detained human rights defender and journalist Mr Khaled Elbalshy on charges of “disseminating false news and rumours” and “sheltering criminals”. Downtown Cairo Prosecution granted the human rights defender LE10 000 bail, which was paid. He was subsequently released pending trial on 4 June 2016. In a separate case, on 26 May 2016, human rights defender Mr Mohamed Zarea was prevented from travelling to Tunisia based on the order of an investigative judge which the defender believes is related to the foreign funding case against NGOs recently reopened in Egypt.
Khaled Elbalshy is a journalist and board member of Egypt's Journalists' Syndicate and the head of its Freedoms Committee. He is the current chief editor of the independent news website Al Bedaiah, an online newspaper advocating democracy and supporting freedom of speech and expression. Mohamed Zarea is an Egyptian human rights defender and Director for Egypt of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), a Cairo-based, independent, regional non-governmental organization founded in 1993 working on the promotion and respect of the principles of human rights, democracy and the rule of law through advocacy, policy research and human rights education in Egypt and the Arab region. CIHRS received the French Republic's Human Rights Prize in 2007.
On 29 May 2016, human rights defender Khaled Elbalshy appeared before South Cairo's Downtown Cairo Prosecution following a summons he received several days previously. He was charged on counts of “deliberately disseminating false news and rumors”, in reference to a previous raid at the Journalists' Syndicate office on 1 May 2016, and “sheltering criminals wanted by judicial authorities”, in reference to journalists Amr Badr and Mahmoud El-Sakka, who were present at the Syndicate and are affiliated with it. Both the Journalists' Syndicate Head, Yehia Qalash, and General Secretary, Gamal Abdel-Reheem, were summoned and interrogated in relation to the same case.
The three journalists were subject to interrogation for 14 hours, before being released on bail for the sum of LE10 000 (approximately €1 000). The journalists were informed that their bail fee had been paid, which they themselves refused to pay as they did not recognise the charges being brought against them. Khaled Elbalshy's interrogation lasted three hours. He was questioned about the storming of the Journalists' Syndicate office on 1 May 2016, as well as the reason for Amr Badr and Mahmoud El-Sakka's presence at the premises. The human rights defender explained that it was to ensure their safety and not about escaping the arrest warrant issued against them. The defender and his two colleagues were held at Qasr Al-Nile Police Station for several hours before being released pursuant to an order of the Prosecution. The trial is scheduled to be held on 4 June 2016 before Qasr Al-Nil Criminal Court
In separate cases, on 26 May 2016, human rights defender Mohamed Zarea was informed of a travel ban imposed against him while travelling from Cairo International Airport to Tunisia. Mohamed Zarea was told by security authorities that the order had been issued a day earlier by an investigating judge. The defender believes this is connected to the current foreign funding case against NGOs.
Human rights defender and lawyer at the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information Ms Rawda Ahmed was summoned on 26 May 2016 to report to the office of the investigating judge examining the foreign funding case. Three hours later she was told that the investigation session was postponed until 2 June 2016.
The stigmatisation of NGOs continues in Egypt. In a recent statement, Egypt's parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal expressed harsh criticism against “suspicious NGOs” and foreign campaigns organising training courses for Members of Parliament, inciting them to “disrupt the state's constitutional institutions” and “target the country's national security”.
In a recent development and amidst the mass arrest of, and disproportional use of force, against, human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and activists by Egyptian authorities during the recent peaceful protests, Egyptian courts have proceeded to bring to trial and sentence more than 150 pro-democracy activists to up to five years imprisonment. 47 of these sentences have been subsequently replaced by heavy fines. Human rights defender Mr Mohamed Nagui, who was recently arrested on 14 May 2016 and sentenced to five years' imprisonment with hard labor over charges of “participating in an illegal demonstration”, had his imprisonment sentence overturned and replaced with LE100 000 bail (approximately €10 000).
Front Line Defenders reiterates its deep concern about the Egyptian government's crackdown on human rights defenders and the criminalisation of civil society which has been steadily intensifying over recent years, and calls for an immediate end to the persecution of human rights defenders.
Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Egypt to:
1. Put an end to the ongoing investigation against Khaled Elbalshy, his colleagues Yehia Qalash and Gamal Abdel-Reheem, and Rawda Ahmed, and immediately lift the travel ban imposed against Mohamed Zarea;
2. Immediately and unconditionally remove the heavy fine imposed on Mohamed Nagui;
3. Immediately cease all forms of harassment and stigmatisation of human rights organisations and human rights defenders in Egypt, as Front Line Defenders believes that their rights are being restricted solely as a result of their legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights;
4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Egypt are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.
On 8 April 2016, the Interior Ministry closed the investigation against journalist and human rights defender Mr Khaled Elbalshy without pressing charges. An arrest warrant had been issued on 4 April for allegedly “calling for a regime overthrow” on social media.
On 4 April 2016, Khaled Elbalshy received news of an arrest warrant issued against him by prosecutors of the Menoufiya Governorate, North of Cairo. The arrest warrant was issued on charges of "insulting the police" and “calling for the disturbing of public order and the overthrow of the regime." This comes after Khaled Elbalshy published tweets and Facebook posts about media freedoms and abuses committed by the police.
Front Line Defenders is pleased that the investigation against Khaled Elbalshy has been closed and that no charges have been brought, and urges the Egyptian authorities to allow him to continue his work in the defence of human rights and freedom of speech. Front Line Defenders calls on the authorities in Egypt to ensure that all human rights defenders be allowed to carry out their legitimate work in the defence of human rights free of restrictions, including judicial harassment, and without fear of persecution.
On 4 April 2016, prominent journalist Mr Khaled Elbalshy received news of an arrest warrant issued against him by prosecutors of the Menoufiya Governorate, North of Cairo. The arrest warrant was issued on charges of "insulting the police" and “calling for the disturbing of public order and the overthrow of the regime." This comes after Khaled Elbalshy published tweets and Facebook posts about media freedoms and abuses committed by the police.
Khaled Elbalshy is a prominent journalist and board member of Egypt's Press Syndicate and the head of its Freedoms Committee. He is also the former chief editor of Al Badil newspaper, and the current chief editor of the independent news website Al Bedaiah, an online newspaper advocating democracy and supporting freedom of speech and expression.
On 4 April 2016, the public prosecutor issued a decision to arrest journalist Khaled Elbalshy on charges of "insulting the police" and “calling for the disturbing of public order and the overthrow of the regime." This comes after a request was filed by the Deputy Minister of Interior for Legal Affairs and sent to the public prosecutor, ordering the communications department of investigations to open an inquiry on the tweets and Facebook posts. The request (administrative order number 2131) was based on publications made by the journalist on his Facebook and Twitter accounts, including posts, videos, and screenshots. Khaled Elbalshy was informed about the charges brought against him only after a family member in his hometown of Menoufiya was shown the arrest warrant.
Previously, in October 2015, the prosecutor in Cairo charged the journalist and other human rights defenders with, inter alia, “organising an illegal protest”, “attacking police officers”, and “chanting slogans against the army and the police”, due to their participation in the 6th of April Movement and Revolutionary Socialists Movement.
Front Line Defenders is concerned about the arrest warrant issued against journalist Khaled Elbalshy, and believes that this solely results from his legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of media freedom in Egypt.
Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Egypt to:
- Immediately quash the arrest warrant issued against Khaled Elbalshy and drop the charges against him;
- Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Egypt are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.
On 13 October, the Cairo Prosecutor interrogated Mr Khaled ElBalshy and Ms Rasha Azab along four other activists for five hours and then released them on bail with multiple charges.
The Prosecutor charged the human rights defenders with “organising an illegal protest”, “inciting people to protest”, “attacking police officers”, “blocking the traffic”, “chanting slogans against the army and the police” and “belonging to an illegal organisation” in reference to two pro-democracy movements: 6th of April Movement and Revolutionary Socialists Movement'.
Khaled Elbalshy is a prominent journalist and board member of Egypt's Press Syndicate and the head of its Freedoms' Committee. He is also the chief editor of the private Al Bedaiah on line newspaper. Rasha Azab is a well-known journalist who actively speaks about freedom of expression and assembly.
The Cairo Prosecutor began an investigation into this case in June 2014 after Elbalshy, under his capacity as the head of the Freedoms' Committee at the Press Syndicate, and Rasha Azab organised a public conference on 12 June 2014. This was held at the Press Syndicate headquarters in central Cairo in solidarity with political activists, human rights defenders and journalists who had been prosecuted, detained or sentenced to prison under the Assembly Law promulgated by the Egyptian government in November 2013. The government has received heavy criticism for its draconian restrictions on peaceful protests and assemblies. Security forces surrounded the Press Syndicate and attempted to prevent young activists and journalists from joining the conference and briefly arrested some of the participants. At the same time, a group of pro-government and military protesters, holding pictures of Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, stormed the conference and physically and verbally attacked its participants.