Egypt: Free Hossam Bahgat, Prominent Human Rights Defender

Brussels, 9 November 2015 – EuroMed Rights, Front Line Defenders and the Observatory (a joint FIDH and OMCT programme) express their deep concern over Egypt’s Military Prosecution and detention of journalist and human rights defender Hossam Bahgat, a decision that was ordered today until Wednesday 11 November.

Hossam Bahgat, last seen Sunday evening, is reported to be detained pending investigation on charges of “publishing false news that harms national interests” and “disseminating information that disturbs public peace” for publishing reports about Egypt’s military.

Our organisations believe the charges held against Bahgat are part of an ongoing campaign of judicial harassment and repression against journalists and human rights defenders in Egypt. We call for the immediate release of the prominent human rights defender.

On November 5th, Hossam Bahgat received a summons from Military Intelligence at his home in Alexandria. Arriving at the Military Intelligence headquarters in Nasr City in Cairo at 9 am on Sunday, November 7th, he was forbidden to enter with his phone, or be accompanied by a lawyer. After several hours, Bahgat was transferred to Military Prosecution and interrogated into the night in the presence of his lawyers. Finally his overnight detention was ordered at the headquarters of the Military Intelligence until it delivers its final decision on his case.

Our organisations strongly condemn the arrest and detention of Hossam Bahgat. We fear that the charges against him are solely motivated to deter his courageous media work and his peaceful human rights activism.

Hossam Bahgat is a journalist and prominent human rights defender. His investigative stories appear in the independent news service Mada Masr. From 2002 to 2013, he was the founding executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights where he still serves as chairman. In 2010, Human Rights Watch awarded Bahgat the Allison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism. The human rights defender is known for his intense criticism of human rights crimes committed by Egypt’s army over the past five years. Since 2014, Bahgat has published a series of investigative reports in Mada Masr on the increasing powers of Egypt’s army, denouncing the use of military tribunals against civilians and reporting the corruption of the family of former Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak.