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Egypt releases imprisoned rights activist, expels him

by The Associated Press | January 9, 2022 at 5:13 a.m.
FILE - In this undated image from the Free Ramy Shaath Facebook page, Ramy Shaath poses for a picture Jan. 2, 2015, in Cairo, Egypt. Egyptian authorities deported Ramy Shaath, the son of a prominent Palestinian politician after he served 2 1/2 years of pre-trial detention over allegations of having ties with an outlawed group, his family said Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022. (Free Ramy Shaath Facebook page via AP, File)

PARIS -- An Egyptian-Palestinian human-rights activist arrived in Paris and reunited with his wife Saturday, after Egyptian authorities released him from prison and deported him.

Ramy Shaath, the son of a prominent Palestinian politician, walked out of the Charles de Gaulle airport holding hands with his wife, Celine Lebrun Shaath, and waving to a cheering crowd of supporters.

"I am very excited to be here," Ramy Shaath said. He described the network of crowded Egyptian prisons in which he had spent the past 2½ years as "lacking respect for human dignity." But Shaath said his resolve has not been broken.

"I am continuing on my way. I am insisting on freeing my friends from Egyptian jails," Shaath said.

"I have hope for a better Egypt," he added. "I have hope for an independent and secure Palestine, and I have hope for a better Middle East and a better world we live in."

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed the decision to release the activist, saying he was "relieved" and thanking those who helped make it happen.

Egyptian authorities deported Shaath after he served 2½ years of pretrial detention over allegations of having ties with an outlawed group, members of his family said Saturday. He was forced to renounce his Egyptian citizenship to gain his freedom, they added in a statement.

Shaath's father is Nabil Shaath, an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The family said Ramy Shaath was handed over to a representative of the Palestinian Authority at the Cairo international airport, where he boarded a flight to the Jordanian capital, Amman. He then traveled to Paris to meet his wife, who is a French citizen.

An Egyptian government spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on Shaath's release or the termination of his Egyptian citizenship.

Shaath was arrested in July 2019 at his home in Cairo and accused of having links to the Muslim Brotherhood, which the Egyptian government designated as a terrorist organization in 2013.

The dual Palestinian-Egyptian citizen was added to a case that included a former Egyptian lawmaker and key secular activists. They had been arrested about a month before Shaath and were accused of collaborating with wanted Brotherhood members in Turkey to plot violence and riots.

Last year, Shaath was added to the country's terrorist list.

Shaath helped establish Egypt's branch of the Palestinian-led boycott movement against Israel.

"No one should have to choose between their freedom and their citizenship. Ramy was born Egyptian. ... No coerced renunciation of citizenship under duress will ever change that," the family's statement said.

Egyptian authorities have previously forced activists with dual nationality to relinquish their Egyptian citizenship as a condition of their release, a legal maneuver that allows for their deportation.

In July 2020, Mohamed Amashah, an Egyptian-American citizen, was forced to renounce his Egyptian nationality to get released after spending nearly 500 days in pretrial detention on charges of "misusing social media" and "aiding a terrorist group."

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