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MRN Press Statement on release of Mohamed Soltan

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The Media Review Network welcomes release of an American citizen detained in Egypt since 2013.

Mohamed Soltan, who possessed dual American and Egyptian citizenship, was shot during peaceful protests against the military coup which toppled the country’s first democratically elected president.

Soltan, a 27-year old graduate of Ohio State University, was sentenced to life in prison on fictitious charges of financing an anti-government sit-in and spreading “false news”. He had been on a partial hunger strike in prison for almost a year, since January 2014.

In a surprise move possibly due to pressure exerted by the Obama administration, the Sisi regime quietly shuttled Soltan into a plane on a flight back to the United States. While it is unclear what ultimately led to his release given that there was no court ruling to reverse his life sentence, we are certain that activist campaigns by his American based sister Hanaa, which included intense lobbying yielded results.

The Media Review Network shares the joy of his family to finally receive Soltan and provide him urgent medical care, which sadly was denied to him in prison. Recent photos from a Cairo courtroom showed Soltan pale and emaciated, and addressing the court while lying on a stretcher.

Under Egyptian law, authorities can deport convicts who hold foreign passports. Media reports suggest that Soltan had relinquished his Egyptian citizenship to be set free. And Associated Press reported that he departed using his American passport.

The Media Review Network takes this opportunity to remind the world that a South African citizen Abdu Salaam Jad Bassiouni, who also possesses dual SA/Egyptian citizenship, is still languishing in Cairo’s notorious Torah prison without charge. He was arrested during December 2014 at Cairo airport and remains in detention.

Bassiouni is 64 years old and suffers from a number of medical conditions including diabetes. His travel to Egypt was on a South African passport with a valid visa issued by Egypt’s embassy in Pretoria. Though his son Bilal who accompanied his dad was also detained and interrogated, he was released within 24 hours.

The campaign to free Bassiouni is led by Bilal, a practicing architect in Johannesburg, with the active support of South African civil societies, including the Media Review Network.

While there is a sense that South Africa’s ministry of International Relations has not been as engaged as the Obama administration in demanding the unconditional release of its citizen, we are hopeful that the Sisi regime will see the folly of holding a highly respected SA humanitarian against his will.

We hereby once again reiterate our call on President Zuma to urgently intervene on behalf of the Bassiouni family to secure his freedom and return home.

We also urge SA’s civil societies to continue agitating for Bassiouni’s unconditional release, being aware that the judiciary in Egypt is unfortunately tainted as a lapdog of the military junta.

Iqbal Jassat

Executive Member: Media Review Network


South Africa