PARIS (AP) — Egyptian-Palestinian human rights activist Ramy Shaath arrived in Paris and reunited with his wife on Saturday, after Egyptian authorities released him from prison and deported him.
An overjoyed Shaath, the son of a prominent Palestinian politician, walked out of the Charles de Gaulle airport smiling, holding hands with his wife, Céline Lebrun Shaath, a French national, and waving to a cheering crowd of supporters.
“I am very excited to be here,” Shaath said. Speaking in English, he described the network of overcrowded Egyptian prisons in which he had spent the last two and a half years as “lacking respect for human dignity.” However, his resolve has not been broken, Shaath said.
“I am continuing on my way. I am insisting on freeing my friends from Egyptian jails,” Shaath said.
“I have hope for a better Egypt,” Shaath said. “I have hope for an independent and secure Palestine and I have hope for a better Middle East and a better world we live in.”
French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed the decision to release the activist, saying he was “relieved” and thanking those who helped make it happen.
Egyptian authorities deported Shaath after he served 2 1/2 years of pre-trial detention over allegations of having ties with an outlawed group, his family said Saturday. He was forced to renounce his Egyptian citizenship to gain his freedom, they added in a statement.
His father is Nabil Shaath, an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The family says Ramy was handed over to a representative of the Palestinian Authority at Cairo international airport, where he boarded a flight to the Jordanian capital of Amman. He then traveled on to Paris.
An Egyptian government spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on Shaath’s release or the termination of his Egyptian citizenship.
Ramy Shaath was arrested in July 2019 at his home in Cairo and accused of having links to the Muslim Brotherhood, which the Egyptian government designated as a terrorist organization in 2013.
A dual Palestinian-Egyptian national, he was added to a case that included a former lawmaker and key secular activists. They had been arrested about a month before Shaath and accused of collaborating with wanted Brotherhood members in Turkey to plot violence and riots.
Last year, he was added to the country’s terrorist list.
Ramy Shaath helped establish Egypt’s branch of the Palestinian-led boycott movement against Israel, known as BDS.
“No one should have to choose between their freedom and their citizenship. Ramy was born Egyptian … . No coerced renunciation of citizenship under duress will ever change that,” the statement read.
Egyptian authorities have previously forced activists with dual nationality to relinquish their Egyptian citizenship as a condition for their release, a legal maneuver that allows authorities to deport foreigners accused of crimes.
In July 2020, Mohamed Amashah, a dual Egyptian-American citizen, was forced to renounce his Egyptian nationality to get released after spending nearly 500 days in pre-trial detention over charges of “misusing social media” and “aiding a terrorist group.”
Mohamed Soltan, also an American citizen and son of a Muslim Brotherhood leader, was released from an Egyptian prison in 2015 after he relinquished his Egyptian citizenship.
Surk contributed from Nice, France.
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