December 25, 2017 –
…Take the cases of Mostafa Kassem and Ahmed Etiwy, two of the U.S. citizens held by Egypt. Both have been imprisoned since 2013 after being swept up in crackdowns against protests in which they did not participate. Kassem, a 52-year-old auto-parts dealer from New York, happened to be in Egypt on the day that security forces crushed a mass sit-in in Cairo’s Rabaa Square, killing hundreds. He was not there but was stopped at a security checkpoint two miles away; when police saw his U.S. passport, they beat him up and arrested him.
Etiwy, a 27-year-old student also from New York, similarly was dropping off a relative at a bus station when police stormed a nearby mosque. He was surrounded by a mob who suspected him of being a journalist, then was turned over to security forces. Kassem has never been convicted of a crime, but Etiwy was sentenced in September to five years in prison.
Praveen Madhiraju of the Washington-based group Pretrial Rights International said he and two other advocates had contacted officials at the White House and National Security Council a dozen times about the cases but received no response. A letter from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to Trump in August prompted no visible action. But an Irish citizen arrested in the same mosque crackdown that swept up Etiwy was freed in October after intensive lobbying by the Irish government.