Egypt arrest of Palestinian official’s son ‘linked to activism’

Egyptian security forces arrested Ramy Shaath on July 5 and accused him of ‘assisting a terrorist group’, family says.

Ramy Shaath smiles at the camera.
Ramy Shaath, who has lived in Egypt since 1977, is the general coordinator for the country's BDS branch [Family handout via AFP]

Prominent Palestinian politician Nabil Shaath has broken his silence since Egyptian security forces arrested his son last month.

Ramy Shaath, 48, was taken from his Cairo home on July 5 at 12:45am (22:45 GMT), his family said in a statement on Facebook on Wednesday.

“At least a dozen heavily armed security agents stormed and searched his residence without presenting any legal document,” it added.

Speaking to The New Arab on Thursday, Shaath said the arrest was related to his son’s activism in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, as well as his criticism of Egypt’s participation in a United States-led economic workshop in Bahrain, billed as the first part of Washington’s controversial plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Shaath said Ramy’s detention has been renewed every two weeks for another two weeks.

“According to the lawyers for the Egyptian security, Ramy’s criticism of Egypt due to its participation in the Bahrain workshop, and his activity in the boycott movement against Israel serves those who are against Egyptian security,” Shaath said.

Cairo sent a mid-level official to the June conference in Manama where US President Donald Trump‘s son-in-law Jared Kushner launched the initiative.

‘Ramy is making problems for us’

Shaath, a former interim prime minister who was a key negotiating figure for the 1993 Oslo Accords, said his family found out two weeks after his son’s arrest that he was being held at the notorious Tora prison.

The arrest came 10 days after authorities raided 19 businesses allegedly tied to the banned Muslim Brotherhood, accusing them of funding a plot to overthrow the state.

After disappearing for 36 hours, Shaath appeared before prosecutors and was charged with “assisting a terrorist group” connected to the same plot, the family said.

Shaath said Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, in addition to Palestinian intelligence chief Majed Faraj, had contributed to efforts aimed at securing his son’s release.

“I have remained silent over the past period in the hope that the Palestinian diplomatic efforts will lead to [Ramy’s] release,” he said.

Shaath added that Faraj met the Egyptian security forces two weeks after the arrest and was told that Ramy would be released in a matter of days.

“They told Faraj: ‘Ramy is making problems for us, and the BDS is causing us problems’,” Shaath said.

“I prevented family members and friends from making public statements but after nearly two months, they could no longer be silent,” he added.

There has been no formal comment from the PA.

‘Arrested for peaceful activities’

Ramy Shaath, who used to serve as an adviser to Palestinian Liberation Organisation head Yasser Arafat, has been living in Egypt since 1977. He quit politics in the late 1990s and is now the general coordinator for the BDS branch in Egypt.

The movement on Thursday released a statement on Twitter, condemning his arrest and subsequent detention.

“The Egyptian popular campaign for the boycott of Israel holds the Egyptian Ministry of Interior responsible for the safety and security of our general coordinator,” the statement said.

“His arrest is a disaster,” said his wife Celine Lebrun-Shaath, a French national, who was deported from Cairo shortly after his arrest, according to the family’s statement.

Speaking to the AFP news agency, Ramy’s wife Celine said she felt “powerless … not knowing when I will see him again”.

“We want [Egypt] to release Ramy. He has not done anything that he is accused of,” she said. “He is being arrested for his peaceful activities.”

His family said they have been able to visit him regularly but are concerned about his health, as he suffers from high cholesterol.

According to various human rights organisations, Egypt has jailed as many as 60,000 people since a 2013 military coup led by current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi against Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected president who died in detention after collapsing in a Cairo courtroom in June.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies