The international rights organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a statement on Wednesday calling on Egyptian authorities to release all activists and detainees held in pretrial detention on charges pertaining to freedom of peaceful assembly and speech.
The statement said Egyptian courts have handed down prison sentences to more than 150 people since the beginning of May, particularly those who were arrested on 25 April in the anti-government protests that contested the transfer of sovereignty of Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia.
Out of the 150 arrested, 47 detainees started a hunger strike last week in response to the 5-year prison sentence they received earlier this month. An appeals court replaced these prison sentences on Tuesday with a fine of EGP 100,000 per detainee, a fine that must be paid prior to their release.
According to the statement, HRW is calling on Egyptian authorities to stop the crackdown against detainees and activities that are being detained on charges related to freedom of expression and speech.
Citing Nadim Houry, Deputy Middle East and North Africa director at HRW, the statement said that Egyptian authorities are using threats to national security to crush dissent among Egypt’s youth demographic.
“This is a policy of insecurity, not security, leaving young people unable find the smallest space for peaceful dissent that won’t land them in jail,” Houry continued.
He also added that Egypt’s judiciary has become an integral part of the government’s crackdown on dissent, concluding that it is not in anyone’s interest to leave no space for young people to express their discontent.