Activist Ramy Shaath arrives in France after release from Egyptian detention

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Egyptian-Palestinian rights activist Ramy Shaath arrived in France Saturday after more than two years in detention in Egypt. His family said he was released after authorities in Cairo forced the activist to renounce his Egyptian nationality.

The statement said that Shaath, who was a member of several secular political groups in Egypt and a co-founder of Egypt's pro-Palestinian BDS movement, was released on Thursday evening.

The 48-year-old activist was handed to a representative of the Palestinian Authority in Cairo before being flown to Amman, Jordan from where he boarded a flight to Paris.

Shaath’s wife, French national, Céline Lebrun, who was deported from Egypt following his arrest, had lobbied the French government to pressure Egypt to release him.

In a statement, Shaath’s family welcomed his release, but regretted his loss of Egyptian nationality. "If we are glad that the Egyptian authorities heard our call for freedom, we regret that they forced Ramy to renounce his Egyptian citizenship as a precondition for his release that should have been unconditional," the statement said.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday welcomed Shaath’s release and thanked “all those who played a positive role in this happy outcome”, in a Twitter post.

Shaath was arrested in Egypt in June 2019 and held in pre-trial detention alongside other activists on accusations of aiding a terrorist group.

Political prisoners facing brutal conditions

In December, five human rights groups called on Macron to pressure Egypt to release Shaath.

Macron had previously addressed his detention in a news conference in Paris with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in December 2020.

Shaath’s detention came amid a continuing crackdown on political dissent under Sisi that has swept up liberal critics as well as Islamists from the Muslim Brotherhood whose ouster Sisi led in 2013.

Sisi and his supporters insist there are no political prisoners in Egypt, and that security measures were necessary to stabilise the country after a 2011 uprising.

But rights groups say Egypt is holding some 60,000 political prisoners, many facing brutal conditions and overcrowded cells.

Egypt ranks in the lowest group on the Global Public Policy Institute's Academic Freedom Index.

In a statement last month, several NGOs questioned Macron on Shaath’s fate.

However, at the time Macron made it clear that human rights would not be a condition for economic and military ties with Cairo.

France said in May it would deliver 30 Rafale warplanes to Egypt from 2024 in a €4 billion ($4.8 billion) deal, as it strengthened its military partnership with Cairo.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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