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Former activist Sharif al-Rouby arrested again months after release

Sharif al-Rouby, former spokesperson for the April 6 Movement, was arrested on September 17. The following day he was ordered detained in remand pending investigation into charges of joining a terrorist group and spreading false news. He had been out of prison for less than four months.

Between his May 30 release and his re-arrest on Saturday, Rouby spoke out about the treatment of former detainees on their return to life outside of prison, as authorities implement a series of prisoner releases alongside the rollout of the national political dialogue.

Since his arrest, a number of organizations and public figures have called for him to be freed and for authorities to address the barriers to employment and reintegration into society faced by the newly released. While authorities say they are addressing the latter, they note that Rouby will remain under investigation for the charges.

Rouby was first arrested in 2016, then again in 2018, and finally in December 2020, and imprisoned in remand on charges of joining a terrorist organization and spreading false news on each occasion. The presidential amnesty committee, a body re-formed in April in concert with the launch of the National Dialogue and responsible for recommending prisoners it views as eligible for early release, recommended he be released.

After he walked free in May, Rouby struggled with employment, telling Al-Jazeera at the outset of September that he had applied for work at a restaurant, but that the employer refused him after learning he had been a political prisoner. “Any political detainee — regardless of their affiliation or orientation — comes out to a very bad state of affairs. Work stops if you’re a business or company owner because you’re embattled by state and security services, while friends and relatives try to avoid you so that they don’t face security issues.”

He published frequent posts on his personal Facebook account regarding forced disappearances, the wave of prisoner releases, the conditions endured by former detainees following their releases and on the value of the Egyptian pound and the president’s recent visit to Qatar.

Prosecuting authorities opened Rouby’s personal account on Facebook and questioned him about these posts, according to lawyer Mahienour al-Massry, who said she had spoken with one of the lawyers who attended the interrogation session with him. Rouby, meanwhile, described to the prosecutor his economic situation as a father of three school age children who is unable to find a job, Massry added.

The day after Rouby’s arrest, the presidential amnesty committee announced that it was willing to receive any requests from released prisoners regarding their return to life outside of prison, particularly with regard to employment or alleviating the impact of their imprisonment. Another committee statement on Monday claimed that various former detainees had requested their help with “integration,” and that it had assisted by returning them to their jobs or finding them new employment opportunities.

Yet when asked whether Rouby would be released soon, amnesty committee member Tarek al-Khouly told the Hadeeth al-Qahera television show on Monday evening that Rouby was not included in the committee’s upcoming release lists as he is “under investigation by the Public Prosecution.”

Rouby’s arrest continues to draw condemnation, with Negad al-Borai, a member of the National Dialogue Board of Trustees, stating that his arrest undermines the seriousness of the dialogue’s stated aim of reinforcing political inclusivity, while seven human rights organizations issued a joint statement on Monday saying that the move renews fears over the wellbeing of the other people released following the intervention of the amnesty committee. The Civil Democratic Movement, a coalition of seven socially liberal political parties active in the dialogue, issued a similar call on Monday.

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