Egypt detains ex-advisor to Palestine’s Arafat

The family of the Egyptian-Palestinian politician Ramy Shaath who has previously worked as a political and strategic advisor to Yasser Arafat has released a statement on his arrest by Egyptian authorities last month in which they call for his prompt release.

Shaath was arrested on 5 July from his home in Cairo after security agents stormed and searched his house and seized computers, hard drives and phones.

His wife, a French citizen who lived in Egypt for over seven years, was later arbitrarily and forcibly deported by security forces.

Shaath is the son of the advisor for Foreign Affairs to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Dr Nabil Shaath, and his arrest appears to be part of a wider battle between the Egyptian and the Palestinian governments, according to the human rights activist Ahmed El-Attar.

In June Mahmoud Abbas announced that his government would boycott the Bahrain conference in June which laid the economic foundations for the US proposed Israeli-Palestinian “deal of the century” and said that it deeply regretted Egypt’s decision to participate, calling on it to withdraw.

Read: UN backs out of torture conference in Egypt after pressure from rights groups

Amid widespread criticism from across the Middle East for attending, Egypt authorities announced that media outlets could only publish articles in line with statements made by the Foreign Ministry and the state-run Middle East News Agency (MENA) as it cast its crackdown on free speech even wider.

Shaath’s family statement said that just before his arrest Shaath vocally expressed his opposition to the deal of the century and Egypt’s participation in the Bahrain conference.

In 2015 he co-founded the BDS movement in Egypt and has always been outspoken about the Israeli occupation: “Egyptian State Security has been persecuting Ramy for many years for his public positions against all form of political repression in Egypt, as well as his defence of Palestinian rights against Israeli occupation and apartheid,” said the statement.

In April 2012 authorities refused to renew his passport, saying he was Palestinian, not Egyptian.

Like the rest of Egypt’s 60,000 political prisoners it’s likely Shaath is also being punished for his pro-democracy stance. He was part of a coalition of activists who led the uprising against former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and has co-founded several political parties including El-Dostour Party.

He is being held in Torah Prison in a cell that measures 30 square metres alongside 30 other detainees and is allowed out of his cell for an hour a day. His family are worried about his health as Shaath suffers from high cholesterol.

Authorities have added him to the Hope Alliance case and charged him with assisting a terror group. The statement refutes this: “We also reject any attempt to tarnish Ramy and his family’s reputation in the media by relaying false accusations against him of assisting or joining any terrorist group.”