Egypt prosecutor releases Ahmadi detainees

Cairo, Egypt - The Egyptian state prosecutor has ordered 6 Egyptian citizens affiliated with the Ahmadi religious sect to be released from detention, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) reported. The move on June 7, comes after the 6 members of the minority group were held for more than 80 days, the rights group said.

The move to release the Ahmadis comes after four days of summary court hearings. The judge in the case also issued a ruling to release three other defendants in the same case.

“The EIPR urged the Public Prosecutor to drop the charge of showing contempt for religion, leveled against the detainees by the Supreme State Security Prosecutor and to hold officials who detained and interrogated citizens in violation of the constitutional right to freedom of belief and expression accountable,” EIPR said in a press release on Monday.

“Holding citizens for such a long period simply because they espouse a different faith constitutes a form of arbitrary detention, and those responsible must be held accountable,” said Adel Ramadan, the EIPR’s Legal Officer.

“The government must comply with its international commitments not to punish or question citizens because of their religious beliefs,” he added.

The members of the Ahmadi Islamic sect were arrested on March 15 by State Security police and at least 9 of them have been held since then. According to the Cairo-based rights organization, books and computers were confiscated during the raid.

Reports indicate that the 9 detainees have been held inside a number of police facilities without appearing before any court or judge. They had not been charged with a crime.

In April, they were brought before a Supreme State Security Prosecutor and were formally charged with “showing contempt for the Islamic religion.”

Under Article 98 of the Egyptian Penal Code, this is a crime and can be punishable with a jail sentence, EIPR said.

Then on May 12, police arrested the wife of one of the defendants, where she was also charged with contempt after having been questioned over her beliefs and whether she belonged to the Ahmadi sect.

EIPR has asked for an independent investigation be opened into the allegations of torture.

On May 31 the detention order for the detainees expired in line with the Presidential Order to extend the State of Emergency and limit its application to terrorism and drug cases, the rights group argued.

Soha Abdelaty, the Deputy Director of the EIPR, said that “Article 98 of the Penal Code has been on the books for far too long. The government must take immediate measures to abolish this provision, which is used by State Security police to harass, imprison and torture those who hold minority intellectual and religious beliefs, from Baha’is and Qur’anists to Shi’ites and others.”