The United Nations are urging Egypt to immediately release the daughter and son-in-law of Islamic scholar Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, who was exiled from the country during the 2013 military coup. This comes in light of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s recent decision on June 12th which determined that Ola Al-Qaradawi, 56, and her husband Hosam Khalaf, 58, had been arbitrarily detained and inhumanely treated since their arrest over a year ago.
During a press briefing in Geneva on Tuesday, UN spokesperson Liz Throssell described Al-Qaradawi’s prison as one of Egypt’s worst, claiming she had recently started a hunger strike in protest to her situation. “We understand that Ola Al-Qaradawi’s health is frail and deteriorating and urge the authorities to ensure that her right to health and to physical and psychological integrity is respected,” Throssell said. A report released by the Human Rights Council earlier last month described the separate living conditions of the couple as dark, small cells, with both individuals subject to 24-hour solitary confinement. Throssell concluded Tuesday’s briefing by calling Egypt to release all prisoners who are currently in arbitrary detention.
The inhumane treatment of the couple shed light on the fundamental flaws of Egypt’s Criminal Justice System. Arrested on the 30th of June 2017, Qaradawi and her husband are still in pre-trial detention. Over a year later, prosecutors are renewing their detention orders every 45 days. With little hope of a fair trial for both individuals, Egypt is breaching international laws, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights which it ratified in 1982. Despite this, the Egyptian government denies allegations of the poor treatment of the couple, claiming it meets international standards in protecting the rights of individuals.
Egyptian authorities claim that Al-Qaradawi and Khalaf were arrested on the belief that they had ties to the recently banned Muslim Brotherhood organization. The leader of the organization and previous president of Egypt Mohamed Morsi was overthrown by the military in 2013, leading the country to identify many members of the group as terrorists. Al Jazeera reports that the family of the couple denies they had any links to the organization, despite Al Qaradawi’s father’s prominent position in the Muslim Brotherhood prior to the coup. This also comes as the second-time husband Khalaf has been arbitrarily detained for political purposes, with Egyptian authorities imprisoning him for two years for his involvement in the legal Al-Wasaat Islamic political party. Amnesty International has reported that hundreds of people have been unfairly arrested based on links to the Muslim Brotherhood, with many experiencing similar arbitrary pre-trial detention in harsh conditions.
The Egyptian government is yet to respond to the UN’s urges for the release of Ola Al-Qaradawi and her husband Hosam Khalaf. Their indefinite imprisonment and suffering reflect Egypt’s failure to conform to international standards and protect the rights of individuals, including the right to a fair trial. Until action is taken by Egypt to free the couple, concerns for their health and wellbeing, along with the hundreds of others unlawfully imprisoned, will remain high.
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