Extreme Concern about Harassment of Egyptian Human Rights Defenders in Italy
EuroMed Rights, ARCI and Front Line Defenders witnessed first-hand surveillance and harassment of Egyptian human rights defenders (HRDs) at a human rights workshop in Rome, Italy.
Two persons alleging to be Egyptian journalists were waiting for one of the participants at his arrival gate at Fiumicino airport in Rome and asked the taxi driver for the address of his hotel. Two persons showed up at the hotel the next day trying to enter the workshop’s room. They stayed in the hotel lobby on Saturday and Sunday, trying to intimidate participants by taking photos of them and following them in the street.
In parallel, a smear campaign was launched in Egyptian media outlets on Sunday, accusing participants of plotting an attack against Egypt, and using the photos taken in the hotel lobby. One participant was threatened in aggressive and sexist terms on Facebook by an alleged Egyptian journalist based in Italy and a member of the Egyptian parliament tweeted that he urged the authorities to prosecute the participants.
This is a new level of intimidation of Egyptian HRDs outside Egypt. This harassment is part of a generalised crackdown on dissenting voices in Egypt, which is intensifying ahead of the Presidential elections. This issue has been raised at the highest level with Italian authorities and covered by the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.