Egypt: PEN calls for the poet Galal El-Behairy’s sentence to be quashed

(Suomi) Writers at Risk / Kannanotto / Vetoomus / Suomen PEN / 2018

PEN calls for charges of ‘insulting the military’ and ‘spreading false news’ to be quashed in an open letter and publishes a new poem by El-Behairy

On 31 July 2018, as he reached his 150th day in detention, Egyptian poet and lyricist Galal El-Behairy was sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of 10,000 L.E for ‘insulting the military’ and ‘spreading false news’. The charges related to his latest book of poetry The Finest Women on Earth, despite it not yet having been officially published. El-Behairy’s detention has been met with criticism from the international community and PEN centres across the globe, as well as by UN human rights experts.

El-Behairy also faces additional charges in relation to lyrics written for artist Ramy Essam’s song ‘Balaha’. On 3 March 2018, shortly after the song and music video were released, El-Behairy was arrested. He was held incommunicado for a week before appearing before the High State Security on 10 March, showing signs of severe torture. He has now spent five months in detention.

PEN International and PEN centres have repeatedly called on the Egyptian authorities for El-Behairy’s immediate and unconditional release. Today Finnish PEN joins English PEN and other fellow centres together with Artists at Risk in an open letter urging the Egyptian authorities to quash the three-year prison sentence handed down last week. To draw further attention to the case, Finnish PEN is also publishing an another new poem from Galal El-Behairy from behind bars on the Free Word blog.


Open letter

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
Office of the President
Al Ittihadia Palace
Cairo
Egypt

Your Excellency

We, the undersigned, are writing to you in regard to the ongoing detention of poet and lyricist Galal El-Behairy.

On 31 July 2018, Mr El-Behairy was sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of 10,000 L.E for ‘insulting the military’ and ‘spreading false news’. The charges related to his latest book of poetry The Finest Women on Earth, despite it not yet having been officially published. We understand that Mr El-Behairy also faces additional charges in relation to lyrics written for artist Ramy Essam’s song ‘Balaha’. According to our information, Mr El-Behairy was arrested on 3 March 2018, shortly after the song and music video were released. He was held incommunicado for a week before appearing before the High State Security on 10 March, showing signs of severe torture. He has now spent five months in detention.

Mr El-Behairy’s detention has been met with criticism from the international community, including PEN centres across the globe, as well as by UN human rights experts who issued a statement on his case on 26 July, just days before he was sentenced. They stated:

We are alarmed at the arrest and alleged ill-treatment of Mr. El Behairy which appears to be related solely to the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of artistic expression and creativity.

We recall that all individuals have the right to participate in varied information exchanges, to contribute to artistic expression, and to take part in cultural life and in the development of their society, including through political debate and expression of opinion and dissent, without fear of sanction or reprisals.

PEN shares the concerns of these experts and strongly condemns the Cairo Military Court’s sentence, which we believe to be in violation of Mr El-Behairy’s right to freedom of expression. We call for Mr El-Behairy’s immediate and unconditional release, for his sentence to be quashed and for charges against him to be dropped. In the meantime, we urge the authorities to ensure the full respect of his rights as a prisoner, in accordance with international human rights standards, and call for a full and impartial investigation into the allegations of torture mentioned above.

Furthermore, we respectfully call on the Egyptian authorities to guarantee the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression in Egypt, including the release of all detainees held in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Egypt is a State party.

Yours sincerely

Artists at Risk (AR)
Danish PEN
English PEN
Finnish PEN
French PEN
German PEN
PEN Lebanon
PEN Melbourne
PEN Québec
Swedish PEN


Take Action

Read and share his work

To draw further international attention to his case Finnish PEN is proud to publish Galal El-Behairy’s new poem, which he has written in Tora Prison on 27 June 2018.

Read Galal El-Behairy’s The Tartan Shirt on Finnish PEN’s Free Word blog (see for more entries in Finnish). The poem is availabe also in Arabic here.

Previously PEN centres – Danish PEN, English PEN, Finnish PEN, French PEN, German PEN, Norwegian PEN, PEN America, Swedish PEN – and our colleagues at Arablit and Artists at Risk came together to publish a poem by El-Behairy. The poem was read aloud in a #FreeGalal protest by Finnish PEN and Artists at Risk at the Embassy of Egypt in Helsinki on the World Refugee Day 20 June and given to the embassy personnel and at the Freedom of Expression Club in Helsinki on 9 June 2018.

Read Galal El-Behairy’s A letter from Tora Prison in English, Finnish (by Sampsa Peltonen) and Arabic.

Finnish PEN has also published Galal El-Behairy’s personal statement.

Share details of Galal El-Behairy’s case

Please use tags #FreeGalal #PrisonersOfBalaha on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

Write to him

If you would be interested in sending a message of support to Galal El-Behairy, please email cat (at) englishpen.org

Write to the authorities

Send letters of appeal to the Egyptian authorities:

  • Protesting the continued imprisonment of poet Galal El-Behairy and calling for his immediate and unconditional release;
  • Demanding that the authorities ensure the full respect of his rights as a prisoner, in accordance with international human rights standards;
  • Urging the authorities to quash his sentence and to end the judicial proceedings against El-Behairy, as he is being held solely for her peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression;
  • Asking the authorities to guarantee the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression in Egypt, including the release of all detainees held in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Egypt is a State party.

President
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Office of the President
Al Ittihadia Palace
Cairo
Egypt
Fax: +202 2 391 1441
Email: p.spokesman@op.gov.eg Moh_moussa@op.gov.eg
Salutation: Your Excellency
Twitter: @AlsisiOfficial

Minister of Defence
Mr. Mohamed Ahmed Zaki
23 El-Khalifa El-Maamoun st
El-Qobba Bridge, Al Waili
Cairo Governorate
Egypt
Salutation: Dear Minister

Minister of Justice
Mohamed Hossam Abdel Rahim
Ministry of Justice
Lazoghly Sq
Cairo
Egypt
Fax: +202 2 795 8103
Email: mjustice@moj.gov.eg
Salutation: Dear Minister

Please also send letters to the Embassy of the Egypt in your country. Addresses may be found here. The e-mail adress to the Embassy of Egypt in Finland is embegypt.helsinki@hotmail.com

Don’t forget to sign and share the #FreeGalal petition at change.org and see the case updates on the #FreeGalal site.

PEN Tiedotus