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Egypt fabricates charges to keep activists in prison: Amnesty

Amnesty International on Wednesday accused Egypt of “indefinitely” holding dissidents in prison, keeping them in detention despite court rulings ordering their release.

The rights group said it documented five cases where the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) “bypassed court orders to release (the dissidents) from arbitrary detention by imprisoning them in new cases based on fabricated charges”.

It said the “bid to keep them behind bars indefinitely” was an “alarming signal of how decayed the country’s justice system has become”.

An Egyptian security source said fresh arrests were in line with judicial and court decisions, while provisional detention was ordered in cases of “judicial necessity”.

Najia Bounaim, Amnesty’s North Africa campaigns director, called the practise “an alarming trend”.

It renders prisoners “already detained on spurious grounds trapped in the ‘revolving doors’ of Egypt’s arbitrary detention system”, she said.

Among the cases profiled was that of the daughter of well-known Qatar-based Egyptian Islamist preacher Youssef al-Qardawi.

Ola al-Qardawi has been imprisoned since 2017 for “membership of a terrorist group”, according to Amnesty.

Despite a court ruling ordering her release on July 3, the SSSP “ordered her detention in another unfounded case a day later”.

Amnesty said Ola was targeted over her father’s connections to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group.

It also referred to Al-Jazeera producer Mahmud Hussein, arrested in Cairo in late December 2016 and charged with “membership in a terrorist organisation”, “receiving foreign funding” and “publishing false information”.

The prosecution ordered his release on May 21 but a week later the SSSP slapped him with another set of charges and re-ordered his detention.

Rights groups regularly accuse the authoritarian regime of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who took power after leading the 2013 army ouster of Islamist Mohammed Morsi, of muzzling both secular and Islamist opposition.

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