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Fears rise for exiled dissidents as deportations to Egypt from allies across the region increase

Over the weekend Sudanese authorities handed over 21 government dissidents to the Egyptian authorities, accusing them of taking part in a terror act in the Jabra neighbourhood of Khartoum.

Their deportation has received widespread concern from rights activists, particularly as one of the men, Muhammad Ibrahim, was deported along with his wife, three sons and three daughters.

Human rights groups have said the deported Egyptians had been tried in absentia in politically motivated cases and that it is widely known what will happen to them back home.

There is well documented evidence that outspoken Egyptians are subject to a raft of abuses including forcible disappearance, torture and lack of due process.

Egyptian journalist living in Turkiye, Haytham Abokhalil, told MEMO: “What the regime in Sudan has done is a big crime. They know that the judiciary in Egypt is politicised and there are no fair trials.”

In 2020 Haytham’s brother, a renowned psychiatrist, died in an Egyptian jail cell from medical neglect after being detained as a punitive measure against Haytham’s critical reporting on the Egyptian government.

“If those innocents are accused of any crimes, such as the Jabra incident that took place about two years ago, they should be tried in Sudan and their alleged crimes should be clarified,” adds Haytham. “Especially as they claim that there were casualties from their actions. That these innocent people should be handed over is incomprehensible.”

Incomprehensible, yes, but it is not the first time Khartoum has handed government critics over to Cairo. In 2021 Habiba Ahmed Mohamed was arrested by Sudanese authorities in the East Nile region of Sudan along with her mother and sister and deported to Egypt, forcibly disappeared for three days, and then accused of joining and funding a terror group.

In January this year Egyptian citizen Hossam Menoufy Sallam was forcibly disappeared after his Turkiye bound plane made an emergency landing in Luxor. He was living in exile in Sudan and was briefly detained at Khartoum airport before boarding his flight.

Hossam was sentenced to 25 years in absentia in March 2020 and accused of being “involved in several terror acts” by the Egyptian judiciary.

This latest deportation comes against the backdrop of deepening ties between Egypt and Sudan to the extent that after last year’s coup in Sudan opposition leaders accused Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi of giving Sudanese General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan the greenlight to oust Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok.

“There is no doubt that what occurred involved complicity between the coup authority in Egypt and the military regime in Sudan,” says Abokhalil. “Regretfully, it is expected that there will be similar outrages.”

According to the Lithuania-based Egyptian Front for Human Rights, cases of Egyptians abroad facing deportation are rising. Executive Director for EFHR Ahmed Attalla told MEMO that they monitored a case in July 2019 in which eight Egyptians were deported from Kuwait, based on the arrest orders and security cooperation between Kuwait and Egypt.

“We think that the cooperation and closeness in the strategic political opinions between Egypt and its allies in the Arab region, especially with regimes of the Gulf countries such as KSA, UAE, Kuwait and Sudan, leads to violations such as this,” Attalla said.

“We can generally say that Kuwait assisted the Egyptian authorities by arresting people residing on its lands and deporting them to Egypt, knowing that they were subjected to arrest and other additional violations after their arrival, as well as torturing some of them by beating, dragging and sexual harassment on its lands during the deportation process, and preventing them from disposing of their money in Kuwait.”

Lebanon, Turkiye, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Malaysia have all deported Egyptians back to Cairo since the 2013 military coup, according to a 2019 article by Rassd, as have the European countries Spain and Germany.

Four years ago MEMO reported how an Egyptian imam was deported from Madrid despite having legal residence in Spain, back to Egypt where he was detained in the maximum security jail Tora Prison.

Often these deportations are done under the pretext of the “fight against terrorism”. Rights groups have continually warned that Egypt is using the war on terror to target human rights defenders including through an expansion of legislation that is broad, inaccurate and shrouded in secrecy.

Following the EU-Egypt Association Council meeting last week the EU praised Egypt for co-leading the Global Counter Terrorism Forum, despite Egypt’s increasing abuses in the name of anti-terror.

Human rights defenders, journalists and politicians have been labelled terrorists and the army is carrying out severe violations in North Sinai, all under this banner.

To make matters worse, the deportations took place at the start of Refugee Week, a festival celebrating the contributions refugees have made and their resilience.

“Article 14 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution,” says Abokhalil.

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