French officials urge Sisi to free activist Ramy Shaath
Over 180 French officials with diverse political affiliations have penned an open letter to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi calling for the immediate release of prominent Palestinian-Egyptian human rights defender Rami Shaath.
Shaath, a coordinator in Egypt of the non-violent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) a movement to pressure Israel to comply with international law, was forcibly disappeared by Egyptian security forces in 2019 and remains in detention.
The pro-democracy activist's wife, Celin Lebrun Shaath, a French national, was deported from Egypt on the day of his arrest. Along with several leading human rights organisations, she has campaigned endlessly for her husband's release.
The open letter, which appeared on a website dedicated to Shaath's release, was published one month prior to the date that marks two years since his detention.
Cairo's Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) claimed he was arrested for "aiding a terrorist group in achieving its goals".
The letter also comes ahead of a decision to appeal Shaath's designation as a "terrorist", after he was put on Egypt's terrorism list in April last year, banning him from travel and freezing his assets.
The letter's 182 signatories, representing all levels of the French political system, expressed their "deep concern" for the ongoing detention of "prisoners of conscious" in Egypt, singling out Shaath in particular.
"In the name of the historic partnership that unites France and Egypt, the French political class calls on you [Abdel Fattah al-Sisi] with one voice to intervene in order to facilitate his immediate and unconditional release and the reunification of this French family and Egyptian,” their letter says, in reference to Shaath and his wife.
The letter cites his pro-democracy activities and involvement with BDS and that he has only "peacefully exercised his right to freedom of expression and participation in public affairs."
Ramy’s arbitrary detention has been extended 23 times since his arrest.
He was vocal against Donald Trump’s so-called "Middle East peace plan", which was rejected by Palestinians. Shortly before his arrest, he criticised Egypt's participation in a US-led conference in Bahrain.
His wife spoke to France 24 in March, after visiting him for the first in prison since she was deported.
Shaath, who is the son of former Palestinian Interim Prime Minister Nabil Shaath and former Oslo Accords negotiator, was being held in "inhumane" conditions, she said. This included being made to sleep on the floor in a cell with 10 other inmates.
She expressed dismay for French President Emmanuel Macron for sidelining Egypt's human rights abuses during his high-profile meeting with Sisi last year and failing to condition Paris' relations with Cairo to a commitment to uphold human rights and international law.
Since coming to power in a military coup in 2013, Sisi has consolidated power through a campaign of repression, using counterterrorism as a smokescreen for cracking down on all forms of peaceful dissent and opposition. Security forces frequently perpetuate in forcible disappearances, arbitrary arrest and detention and extrajudicial killings.