LONDON - Egyptian security forces today whisked away human rights activist and former prisoner of conscience Sanaa Seif from outside the Public Prosecutor’s office in New Cairo, where she was waiting to file a complaint after suffering a violent assault.

Sanaa Seif was taken to the office in Cairo of the Supreme State Security Prosecution, a branch of the Public Prosecution specialized in investigating national security threats. Family and supporters gathered outside the office subsequently learnt that prosecutors had questioned her over the charges of “disseminating false news”, “inciting terrorist crimes” and “misuse of social media.”

Sanaa Seif’s brother, activist Alaa Abdel Fatah, has been in arbitrary detention since September 2019. On 22 June, Sanaa Seif, her mother and sister were waiting outside the Tora Prison Complex to receive a letter from him when they were beaten and robbed by a group of women armed with sticks, in full view of security forces.

“Sanaa Seif and her family have suffered years of harassment and intimidation for their human rights activism, but the events of the past two days mark another new low. The fact that Sanaa Seif was taken from right outside the Public Prosecutor’s office shows just how brazen the Egyptian security forces have become,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“The Public Prosecutor now has a choice: either to uphold the law and investigate the attacks against Sanaa Seif and her family, including the role of the security forces in yesterday’s assault, or to be complicit with the security forces in targeting Sanaa Seif and her family simply for questioning her brother’s arbitrary detention and inquiring about his health amid a pandemic.”

“Sanaa Seif’s arrest took place only one day after she, her sister and mother were assaulted by several women in front of the Tora Prison Complex while members of security forces stood by. We call on the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Sanaa Seif and end their relentless harassment of her family. We also repeat our call on them to immediately and unconditionally release Alaa Abdel Fattah and, in the meantime, ensure that he is able to communicate with his family.”

 

Background

 

On 22 June, Sanaa Seif was waiting outside the Tora Prison Complex in Cairo to receive a letter from her arbitrarily detained brother, Alaa Abdel Fattah. Her mother, Laila Soueif, and sister, Mona Seif, were with her. A group of women approached the family and beat them with sticks, tore their clothes, dragged them onto the ground and stole some of their belongings. One policeman reportedly pushed Laila Soueif towards the assailants, while another ordered the assailants to “take them outside [the waiting area]”. The assault left visible marks on the women’s bodies according to photos that Amnesty International has examined.