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Outrage after Egypt puts jailed BDS co-founder and pro-Palestine activist on terror list

Ramy Shaath has been arbitrarily detained for nearly two years, according to Amnesty [Facebook]

Date of publication: 4 May, 2020

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Amnesty International says Palestinian-Egyptian human rights activist Ramy Shaath is a prisoner of conscience after being forcibly disappeared by Egyptian security forces in 2019.
Human rights groups have expressed outrage after adding jailed human rights activist and Palestine campaigner Ramy Shaath to its terrorism list.

Shaath, who co-founded and co-ordinates Egypt's wing of the peaceful Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli human rights abuses, has been detained without trial in Egypt following his arrest in July 2019, according to Amnesty International.

A coalition of Palestinian civil society groups issued a stinging condemnation of the move on Sunday, saying that the court had violated his right to a fair trial by adding a new case to his file without informing his lawyers of the details.

The inclusion of his name to the terrorism list will mean that even if he is freed Shaath will be banned from travelling and have his passport confiscated, as well as having his assets frozen.

The campaign added that Shaath has been denied access to his lawyers and family members, and highlighted the risk posed by coronavirus to detainees in Egypt's overcrowded prisons.

The groups called for Shaath's immediate and unconditional release.

Security forces arrested Shaath on 5 July 2019 without disclosing his whereabouts for 36 hours.

Shaath was then put before a prosecutor at the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) in New Cairo and was accused of supporting the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, which the regime designates as a terrorist group. 

As with many political prisoners in pre-trial detention, his 15-day sentence is continually renewed without any foreseeable plans to proceed woth legal proceedings.

"Amnesty International considers Ramy Shaath to be a prisoner of conscience, as his detention stems solely from the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and his right to participate in public affairs," the group said on their website.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is a peaceful initiative calling for a wide-ranging boycott of Israel over its mistreatment of Palestinians, based on the economic isolation that helped bring down apartheid South Africa.

The Israeli government has outlawed the movement and passed a law in 2017 barring entry to anyone it deems to have supported boycotts against its government, which it claims is anti-Semitic.

Born in Beirut in 1971 to an Egyptian mother and Palestinian father, Shaath fled to Egypt as a child to escape the civil war in Lebanon.

After working as Yasser Arafat's political and strategic consultant, Shaath was part of the negotiations for an independent Palestinian state in the 1990s, which was ultimately unsuccessful.

He co-founded and became the co-ordinator of BDS Egypt in 2015, forming a coalition of dozens of political parties, student unions, syndicates, NGOs and public figures peacefully campaigning for Palestinians right to self-determination.

Although the Egyptian government has not outlawed the BDS movement outright, activists say it has attempted to undermine and smear Palestinian solidarity campaigns as it maintains profitable official trade relations with Israel.

Egypt has also clamped down on any signs of civil society outside its control and jailed thousands of perceived opponents, including human rights defenders.

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