Egypt releases human rights lawyer as US pressures Cairo

Egypt releases human rights defender Mahienour El-Massry as US pressure on Cairo mounts
2 min read
19 July, 2021
El-Massry had been in detention since September 2019, when she was arrested after attending judicial investigations into protesters arrested during rare demonstrations against President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi
Human rights lawyer Mahienour El-Massry was released from detention on Sunday [Getty]

Egyptian authorities on Sunday released longtime detainee and human rights lawyer Mahienour El-Massry, as the US pressures Cairo to end its crackdown on human rights activists. 

El-Massry had been in detention since September 2019, when she was arrested after attending judicial investigations into protesters arrested during rare demonstrations against President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. She was sentenced to 15 days in prison soon after her arrest.

A Facebook post from El-Massry's sister on Sunday showed the lawyer out of prison and ready to get into a car.

The human rights defender has been tried and jailed three times since 2013. 

Free Mahienour, a page dedicated to campaigning for El-Massry's freedom, said she had been released "unexpectedly".

El-Massry was among six activists, journalists, and a politician released by the authorities over the weekend, according to the Egyptian state-run newspaper Al-Ahram.

Among them was Esraa Abdel-Fattah, who, like El-Massry, had been in detention since 2019. ​

Abdel-Fattah, one of the symbols of the 2011 revolution, was arrested on charges of "spreading false news" and "collaborating with a terrorist group". Her detention sparked international condemnation, with the US calling it "scandalous".

Egypt's release of prisoners came after US President Joe Biden called on Sisi to end his crackdown on rights activists.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said last week that the US was "concerned" by the continued detention of academics, activists, and journalists.

However, the detention of critics is continuing with Berlin-based Egyptian academic, Alia Mosallam, arrested upon her arrival at Cairo International Airport last week.

Egypt's intelligence chief claimed last week that Washington agreed to the jailing of Egyptian-American human rights activist Mohammed Soltan in the US after he was freed from Egyptian custody in 2015.

Politico said that it had obtained a copy of a document that appeared to be an agreement signed by Egyptian and American officials stipulating that Soltan would be imprisoned by US authorities after his return to the US from Egypt.

Officials from the State Department told Politico that the document Kamel presented was likely signed at the last minute by an American representative in Egypt, under pressure from Cairo, amid US efforts to ensure that Soltan would be able to return home. They said it was not legally enforceable.