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Researcher Ahmed Samir Santawy banned from travel despite presidential pardon

Researcher Ahmed Samir Santawy, who was recently released from prison, was informed on Saturday by Cairo airport authorities that he is banned from travel after over 18 months of detention.

Santawy, a postgraduate student at Central European University in Austria, has faced security restrictions since December 2020, escalating to his arrest just a few months later and ultimately a three-year sentence on false news charges. Santawy was granted early release in July after receiving a presidential pardon.

Santawy and his family asked relevant authorities whether he would be able to leave Egypt, and were informed that he could return to Vienna to resume the studies that were interrupted by his arrest and imprisonment, according to Santawy’s brother, Abdel Rahman, and defense lawyer Ahmed Ragheb, who acts on the researcher’s behalf. Yet, airport officials informed him on Saturday that he is banned from travel based on security orders, said Abdel Rahman.

Santawy was first questioned by authorities in December 2020 at Sharm el-Sheikh Airport in relation to his research on abortion and Islam upon his return to Egypt during a vacation from his studies. He was then forcibly disappeared for several days in February, and later brought before the State Security Prosecution, which ordered him held pending investigation into terrorism and false news charges.

In May 2021, the prosecution added his name to a second investigation on similar charges, for which he was referred to trial at an emergency state security misdemeanors court and sentenced a month later to four years in prison. At the conclusion of a retrial in July 2022, the sentence was reduced to three years.

Santawy’s release from custody came after he was included on a list by the presidential amnesty committee, which was reformed in April alongside the launch of the National Dialogue — an initiative launched by the president and billed as a forum for fostering greater political inclusivity and diversity.

Ragheb said that he would soon file complaints with passport and prosecuting authorities for further information on why Santawy is banned from leaving the country.

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