His Excellency Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
President, Arab Republic of Egypt
Chancellor Hamada El-Sawy
Office of the Public Prosecutor
Prime Solicitor-General Khaled Diauddin
Supreme State Security Prosecution in the Arab Republic of Egypt
Dear President al-Sisi, Chancellor El-Sawy and Prime Solicitor-General Diauddin,
We write to you on behalf of the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association of North America to express our deep concern regarding the continued imprisonment of Egyptian Islamic scholar Dr. Salah Soltan. Dr. Soltan, a U.S. permanent resident, has been in prison for nearly ten years and was reportedly the victim of forced disappearance, torture, and inhumane detention conditions. He was sentenced to death and life in prison in two separate cases featuring violations of basic standards of due process and fair trial.
MESA was founded in 1966 to support scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has almost 2700 members worldwide. MESA. is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.
Dr. Soltan, formerly a professor of Islamic Law at Cairo University and Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, was arrested on 21 September 2013 and charged with inciting violence, being part of a terrorist organization, plotting to cause chaos, and spreading false information. He was later sentenced to death and life in prison in two mass trials, namely Case No. 2210/2014, also known as the “Rabaa Operation Trial,” and Case No. 8615/2013, also known as “Al-Fateh Mosque Trial.” Both trials were widely viewed as unfair and lacking in due process. In November 2018, Dr. Soltan’s detention was declared arbitrary by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
Reports on Dr. Soltan’s detention conditions indicate that on 13 March 2016, he was assaulted by an officer who broke his jaw. He was forcibly disappeared between June 2020 and August 2022. Egyptian authorities continue to deny Dr. Soltan necessary medical care despite his deteriorating health.
We are also concerned about reports that Egyptian authorities have used Dr. Soltan’s detention to pressure his U.S.-based son Mohamed to cease his advocacy on behalf of political prisoners in Egypt.
Dr. Soltan’s case is part of an alarming trend of increasing transgressions against the rights of academics and researchers in Egypt. His continued imprisonment and mistreatment are in violation of the 2014 Egyptian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech (Article 65), freedom of scientific research (Article 23), and personal freedom (Article 54).
We call upon you to release Dr. Soltan and bring an end to the inhumane detention he has endured for the past decade. We also urge you to support academic freedom by freeing all unjustly detained scholars and researchers and lift all restrictions on their freedom of movement [see our letters dated 17 August 2022, 19 July 2022, 4 May 2022, and 10 February 2022].
We look forward to your response.
Eve Troutt Powell
Professor, University of Pennsylvania
Chair, Committee on Academic Freedom
Professor Emerita, University of Southern California
Dr. Hanafi Gebali, Speaker, Egyptian Parliament
Motaz Zahran, Ambassador, Embassy of Egypt, Washington, D.C.
Mohamed Fathi Ahmed Edrees, Permanent Representative of Egypt to the UN
Amb. Moushira Khattab, President, National Council for Human Rights, Cairo, Egypt
Mohamad Anwar El-Sadat, President, Reform and Development Party, Egypt
Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
The Honorable Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders
Maria Arena, Chair of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights
Viktor Almqvist, Press Officer for the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament
Dunja Mijatović, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights
Kati Piri, Member, Committee on Foreign Affairs, European Parliament
Irene Khan, UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression
Yael Lempert, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Department of State, United States Government
Philip McDaniel, Foreign Policy Advisor: Congressman Tom Malinowski (NJ-7), Member of Egypt Human Rights Caucus
Nancy Chen, Legislative Fellow: Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), Member of Egypt Human Rights Caucus
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