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The New Arab

US teacher released from Egyptian jail after almost a year, without trial, over Facebook posts

Reem Desouky was arrested after being interrogated on arrival at Cairo airport [Getty]

Date of publication: 5 May, 2020

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Reem Desouky spent 300 days in pre-trial detention in Egypt after being arrested at Cairo airport and accused of criticising Sisi on Facebook.
An Egyptian-American woman has returned to the US following her release from an Egyptian prison where she spent 301 days in pre-trial detention after being accused of running an anti-Sisi Facebook page.

Reem Mohamed Desouky, a teacher from Pennsylvania, was detained in July 2019 as she arrived at Cairo airport with her 13-year-old son on a family visit.

After hours-long interrogation and confiscation of their phones, authorities alleged that Desouky had criticised the Sisi regime online and supported the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

She was sent to the notorious Al-Qanater women's prison where she remained without trial for ten months.

The Freedom Initiative, who campaigned for Desouky's release, confirmed that she and her son had returned to their hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on Sunday night.

"We at the Freedom Initiative and her family and friends are ecstatic about her return home and would like to extend our appreciation to the members of Congress, civil society organizations, the State Department and the Vice President's office for championing Ms. Desouky's case," the organisation said in a statement.

"Her release is welcomed progress and a step forward in the right direction that we hope is built on for the release of others," it added.

A dual Egyptian-US national, Desouky renounced her Egyptian citizenship before boarding her flight back to the US, thought to be a condition for her release.

Desouky's release came after months of pressure from the Trump administration, which intensified following the death of American citizen Moustafa Kassem in an Egyptian jail in January.

Kassem's death has been a source of tension in the otherwise close relationship between the Trump adminstration and the Sisi regime.

Several campaigns have also been demanding the relase of Egyptian prisoners, especially prisoners of conscience, from its overcrowded detention facilities. Prison conditions are known to be extremely unsanitary and an outbreak of coronavirus could prove catastrophic.

Shady Habash, a 24-year-old filmmaker, died in Cairo's Tora prison last week after spending two years behind bars for directing a music clip mocking Sisi.

Although his cause of death is still unknown, some suspect he may have contracted Covid-19.

Despite the release of over 4,000 detainees to mark Sinai Liberation Day on 25 April, individuals convicted of national security, terror or protest law violations - encompassing most of Egypt's estimated 60,000 political prisoners - were deemed not eligible for pardon.


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