Egyptian-Palestinian activist Ramy Shaath denounced Egypt as “a big cell” weeks after his release from jail and departure for France, saying he was determined to keep fighting for the Palestinian cause despite threats against his family.
The 50-year-old was a prominent figure of the 2011 uprising in Egypt and the coordinator of the country’s chapter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
“Egypt today is a big cell and we were in a much smaller one,” Shaath said from Paris after almost two and a half years in prison. “It’s becoming a terror state in every sense of the word.”
Shaath was arrested in July 2019 on charges of aiding a “terrorist organisation”.
He said of the hundreds of people with whom he shared cramped, crowded prison cells during his incarceration, “all of them had the same exact accusation with absolutely no proof, no substance, no incidence, nothing.
“Just a few words they tell you and that is enough to keep you in detention.”
Shaath said at first his fellow prisoners were mostly civil society activists or Islamist supporters of groups including the Muslim Brotherhood. Mohamed Morsi, a member of the organisation, held power from 2012-13 before being removed by the military.
But during his incarceration, increasing numbers arrived who had been detained for still more arbitrary reasons, down to a social media “like” for the wrong person or page, according to Shaath.
He said up to 32 people shared cells of just 23 square metres (250 square feet), where a single hole in the ground with a shower head above it served as toilet facilities.
Prisoners did not receive due process and were placed in solitary confinement if they complained, he added, saying one of his friends died in one of the one-square-metre punishment cells.