Egypt has released Coptic Christian activist Ramy Kamel, held for more than two years in pretrial detention for drawing attention to the struggle of his minority community to achieve religious freedom and gain human rights protections.
Kamel was released January 8, two years and two months after he was arrested on November 23, 2019. Kamel was charged with broadcasting false information about mob violence against Coptic churches in Egypt and for receiving foreign funding.
In a January 12 statement commending Kamel’s release, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent, bipartisan arm of the U.S. Department of State, called the charges against him “unfounded.”
“We hope Mr. Kamel can now resume his important human rights and religious freedom advocacy—a cause which will help advance Egypt’s stated goals of increasing religious tolerance within Egyptian society,” USCIRF Commissioner Tony Perkins said.
Kamel helped expose the “Maspero Massacre” of October 9, 2011, during the Arab Spring revolution when Egyptian troops killed 27 peaceful Coptic protestors. The USCIRF statement described Kamel as a “notable advocate for Egypt’s indigenous Coptic Christian minority, which has long suffered discrimination, targeted abuse, and marginalization.”
Kamel was arrested just a day before he planned to travel to Geneva, Switzerland, to testify before the United Nations Forum on Minority Issues.
“The spurious accusations against him at the time included ‘collaborating with a terrorist organization’ and ‘spreading false news,’ the USCIRF statement said. Kamel was subjected to inordinately extended court-ordered detention, much of it in solitary confinement during which he had sporadic legal access and “no access to healthcare despite suffering from acute asthma.”
Throughout his detention, USCIRF “repeatedly condemned the charges against him” and pressed for his release. And they will continue “to urge the U.S. government to work with the Egyptian government to reform the arrest and prosecution decisions and procedures underlying the detention of religious minorities and their advocates, as well as immediately release other religious freedom activists awaiting trial.”
USCIRF’s 2021 annual report and its November 2021 update on Egypt both “acknowledge Egypt’s incremental steps toward improving religious freedom but also highlight concerns to further improve conditions for religious minorities.”
In the commission’s 2021 annual report, the USCIRF continued to recommend to the U.S. Department of State that Egypt be placed on its “Special Watch List for engaging in severe violations of international religious freedom.”
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