An Egyptian man who was imprisoned in Egypt for liking a Facebook post of a former presidential candidate returned home to Australia after a ten-month ordeal.
Earlier this year, Waled Youssef, an Australian-Egyptian citizen, was imprisoned in the notorious Tora prison in Cairo while on holiday with his family.
His lawyers said that Youssef was detained in a cramped cell with more than a dozen prisoners and unable to socially distance as the coronavirus ravaged through Egypt’s prison system.
Youssef was arrested in January 2020 while sightseeing with his family in Cairo. Egyptian police searched his belongings and went through his personal Facebook page.
Local police accused the 45-year-old of belonging to a banned political group because he liked a Facebook post a former presidential candidate who has since been imprisoned by Egypt.
His lawyers denied all claims made against Youssef and said he had never been a member of a political party or belong to a banned political group
During his arrest, Youssef’s lawyers lobbied the United Nations and the Australian government to intervene on the dual citizen’s behalf after he was prevented from appealing the charges or having visitors.
An Egyptian court then ordered his release on October 14 and dropped the charges against him. He was released 12 days later and forced to wait weeks for a flight back to Australia.
Commenting on his return home Youssef said he was “relieved to finally be home.”
“I never would have expected a trip to visit my family would see me thrown into Tora prison,” Youssef said in a statement released by his lawyers.
“It was the most harrowing 10 months of my life. I just want to heal and recover from this unbelievable and horrendous experience.”
Human Rights Watch called on the Egyptian government to improve medical care in Egypt’s overcrowded prison system. At least 116,000 Egyptians have contracted covid-19 with 6,636 people dying from the virus.
Youssef’s return home comes as Egypt continues to imprison rights activists who met with European diplomats.
Three members of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) were seized this week on charges including “joining a terror group” and “spreading false news”.
Administrative manager Mohamed Basheer, director of criminal justice Karim Ennarah and the organisation’s executive director, Gasser Abdel-Razek, were detained following a meeting the EIPR hosted at its Cairo office on 3 November to discuss human rights in the country.
Diplomats from the UK, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland were at the meeting.
According to the advocacy group, Basheer was questioned by the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) about EIPR’s work, including the meeting in Egypt’s capital.