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The New Arab Staff

Rights groups condemn Egypt's arrests, harassment of US-based activist's family

Mohamed Soltan is suing Egypt's ex-PM over his torture during detention [Getty]

Date of publication: 25 June, 2020

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Five of Egyptian-American activist Mohamed Soltan's cousins have been detained, in what is thought to be a reprisal for his lawsuit against the Egyptian state
A coalition of leading human rights organisations have voiced "deep concern" about Egypt's ongoing harassment and intimidation of the family of a US-based activist.

The family of Mohamed Soltan, an Egyptian-American activist who recently filed a lawsuit against the Egyptian state for torture and other crimes against humanity, have had their homes raided on two occasions by security forces.

During the raids, children were held at gunpoint and others were forcibly disappeared for several days.

"Egypt should immediately release Soltan's relatives and stop harassing and intimidating his family," said Neil Hicks, senior director for advocacy at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. "These reprisals appear aimed at obstructing justice and silencing Egyptian activists, even if they are no longer in Egypt."

The coalition includes Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Open Society Foundation, the Egyptian Human Rights Forum, as well as the Cairo Institute.

According to documents filed in a US court by Soltan, Egyptian security forces raided the homes of his relatives on 9 June and 15 June, both times in the middle of the night. 

Soltan hold former Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem Beblaw responsible for his 2013 detention and torture under the 1991 Torture Victim Protection Act, filing a court case on 1 June.

Soltan is now able to sue Beblawi, as the former premier has relocated to the US to assume the role as executive director for Egypt and several Arab countries with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 

During the raid on 15 June, security forces arrested five of Soltan's male cousins, aged between 20 to 24, subjecting them to enforced disappearances for two days. 

The five cousins appeared before the Supreme State Security Prosecution in Cairo on 17 June and were questioned by state prosecutors over charges of "spreading false news".

They were also accused of joining an unnamed "terrorist organisation" and ordered to remain in detention for another 15 days, pending investigation.

Soltan has said he believes the arrests were made to "force him drop the case" against Beblawy. 

Soltan also mentioned that unidentified police officers visited his father in prison on 15 June to interrogate him about various family members. The next morning the authorities moved him to an undisclosed location.

Mohamed's father, Salah Soltan, was arrested in 2013 and is serving a life sentence in Wadi al-Natroun prison after being found guilty of "connections" to protests against President Mohamed Morsy's removal from power by the military in July 2013.

The intimidation of family members of overseas dissidents is a common tactic of the Egyptian state, which has waged an increasingly oppressive campaign against human rights defenders in the country.

This has included arbitrary arrests, travel bans, and asset freezes.

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