Saudi authorities have arrested and handed several Egyptian dissidents over to Cairo, where they are facing trial for their political activism, one of their families told Middle East Eye.
Ayman Shohoum, 61, had been living in Saudi Arabia’s capital of Riyadh since 2014 where he taught Arabic at a private school, when in May the authorities called him to report to the police station.
Mahmoud, his son, said Saudi authorities had deported his father to Cairo on 20 September, where he is currently facing trial for his political opinions and a potential life sentence in jail.
“He was deported with another person from al-Minya governorate. My father was sent to a detention centre in al-Mansoura on 20 September, after nearly four months in prison in Saudi Arabia,” Mahmoud Shohoum said, speaking to Middle East Eye over the phone from his home in Turkey.
Ayman Shohoum had fled Egypt in early 2014 after two attempts to arrest him by Egyptian security services.
He had been a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was banned in Egypt following a coup against Brotherhood-backed President Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
Mahmoud told MEE that Saudi authorities informed his father last May that he was “wanted” in Egypt, where a court issued a life sentence in absentia against him and an Interpol arrest notice.
“The Egyptian regime knows no mercy,” Mahmoud said.
“A regime of a sole opinion, and [he] who has another differing opinion will be jailed even if he travelled to another country, they will chase him in his exile.”
In 2021, there were nearly 65,000 political prisoners in Egyptian jails, at least 26,000 of whom were held in pre-trial detention, according to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information.
Shohoum was jailed several times during the era of former president Hosni Mubarak for belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Mahmoud told MEE that he was eight years old when Egyptian police attempted to arrest his father from their hometown of Badawi in al-Mansoura in 2007, during Mubarak’s time in power.
He also remembers visiting his father in Wadi el-Natrun prison.
“But today, you don’t have to belong to the Brotherhood to be arrested. Just by having a different opinion in Egypt, whether politically right or left, you could end up in jail,” Mahmoud said.
He added that he also was arrested for three months in 2015.
“My father’s name on my ID card was the reason,” he explained.
Mahmoud was indicted in 2015 for belonging to a banned group, inciting violence, protesting, and threatening the national security of the country, charges which have become familiar in Egyptian political trials.
Mahmoud told MEE he knows of another four families whose members were deported from Saudi Arabia to Egypt over their political views. He is worried about his father’s medical condition, as he suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes.
“I can’t imagine what his feelings are right now. He was confident in his exile and suddenly he was arrested and deported to a country of injustice.”