Citizens Wrongfully Imprisoned in Egypt Sentenced

WASHINGTON (Monday, September 18, 2017) – Today, Freedom First, and Pretrial Rights International, both nonpartisan human rights groups based in Washington D.C., that aim to highlight the suffering of tens of thousands of prisoners in Egypt released the following statement regarding today’s hearing concerning the fate of two men who have been imprisoned in Egypt since 2013:

“We are heartbroken by the court’s verdict for Ahmed Etiwy,” said Praveen Madhiraju of Pretrial Rights. “He is a college student, convicted for protesting at a protest that he never attended. Having already served more than 80% of his sentence, he should be released immediately and pardoned. President Trump is meeting with President Sisi this week in New York. We urge him to put these Americans first. Not President Sisi.”

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PRI Assists Americans Imprisoned in Egypt – Verdict Days Out

A 27-year-old U.S. citizen who has spent more than four years in Egyptian custody on dramatic murder and terrorism charges is expected to receive a verdict Monday in his mass trial with almost 500 other people ― a moment his advocates say could be make-or-break. The case underscores how complicated Washington’s relationship with the world’s largest Arab country remains as the U.S.-supported government engages in what rights groups call the worst wave of repression in modern Egyptian history.
Egyptian military officers arrested Ahmed Etwiy on Aug. 17, 2013, during a security operation targeting political protesters, according to his family and American attorney Praveen Madhiraju. Authorities held him at a military facility and then a massive prison complex for over three years before a trial began. Etwiy was not even involved in the protests, his defenders maintain. Then a 23-year-old student at the German University in Cairo, he was in the area to escort his grandfather to a bus depot.

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Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sent a letter urging President Trump to keep the pressure on Egypt for its human rights violations following the administration’s decision to deny Egypt foreign aid and delay military funding. In the letter, Chairman McCain urges President Trump to continue advocating for those Egyptians, Americans, and organizations fighting for democracy and freedom in Egypt.

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United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners – “Mandela Rules” passed

On 22 May 2015, the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (24th Session) adopted the 22 May 2015 – United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Mandela Rules). These rules–known as the “Mandela Rules”–provide much needed clarity to the treatment of prisoners worldwide, including pretrial detainees.

In a recent press release, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime encouraged states to adopt these minimum standards in their domestic legislation:

Countries are encouraged to reflect the “Mandela Rules” in their national legislation so that prison administrators can apply them in their daily work.

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Iranian Trial Commences for American Reporter Jason Rezaian

As the US and Iran continue negotiations on a nuclear deal, the trial of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian began behind closed doors in a revolutionary court in Tehran last week. According to reports, Rezaian’s hearing adjourned abruptly without any indication of when proceedings would resume. Rezaian’s family traveled to the courthouse for the hearing, but were denied access to the floor where proceedings were held. According to the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, an organization critical of the Iranian government headquartered in Connecticut, Rezaian’s trial commenced in Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran, “a court known for issuing heavy sentences against political prisoners and prisoners of conscience with little to no supporting evidence.” Meanwhile, in Washington, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday on “Americans Detained in Iran.” Mr. Rezaian’s brother, Ali Rezaian, will be among the... read more

US Senate Approves Measure Advocating for Release of US Citizens

On Monday, the United States Senate voted 90-0 to pass a measure (S.Con.Res.16) to encourage the Islamic Republic of Iran to “immediately release Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati, and Jason Rezaian, and cooperate with the United States Government to locate and return Robert Levinson.” Although Abedini and Hekmati have been charged and sentenced (wrongfully, according to the resolution’s sponsor, Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and the State Department), Rezaian (and possibly Levinson) is currently being held in pretrial detention. As detailed in the resolution, Rezaian was “unjustly detained in 2014 and has been held without trial.” The Senate passed the resolution following tense negotiations surrounding amendments to legislation providing for Congressional review of an eventual Obama Administration deal with Iran on its nuclear program. Though not included as a part of that legislation, the resolution passed Monday evening sends a strong signal to the Iranian Government that it must respect the rights of US citizens in its prisons. Should Abedini, Hekmati, and Rezaian not be released prior to the conclusion of a nuclear deal, it will be interesting to determine how the US Congress responds.... read more

Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif on American Prisoner Jason Rezaian

Last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke at an event in New York organized by the New America Foundation. In response to a question about American prisoner Jason Rezaian, Foreign Minister Zarif suggested that Rezaian will have to defend himself in court against serious charges. He then asserted that although many Iranians are also imprisoned abroad, more people know about Rezaian because “the Washington Post has a much better publicity campaign.” The reality is that in addition to Rezaian, who is a dual Iranian and US citizen, there are a number of Iranians currently held in pretrial detention in Iran — including a number of opposition figures who have reportedly been held under house arrest for years without being formally charged with a crime. Moreover, all indications are that Rezaian’s pretrial detention rights have not been respected, an indication that he is unlikely to receive a fair and impartial trial. According to his attorney, the case file she received offered no evidence to support the charges lodged against Mr. Rezaian. Moreover, she has only been granted one substantial meeting with her client, and she does not anticipate another prior to his trial — making it difficult to prepare an adequate defense against the “serious charges” alluded to by Foreign Minister... read more
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