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“All human beings are born free and equal

in dignity and rights.”

- Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Ismail al-Sayed Mohamed Omar Tawfik (Ismail Alexandrani)

Headshot of Ismail Alexandrani

Detained Since: November 29, 2015.

Charges: Joining an illegal organization (Muslim Brotherhood), participating in a criminal plot, illegally obtaining and divulging State secrets, intentionally divulging rumors abroad about the internal situation of the Sinai region and harming the national interest

Sentence: Ten years in prison

Biography: Ismail al-Sayed Mohamed Omar Tawfik, also known as Ismail Alexandrani, is a prominent journalist and researcher who has worked for a number of media outlets, including Al-Jazeera, Assafir, Mada Masr, and al-Arabi. Mr. Tawfik was also former fellow with the Wilson Center and research fellow with the Arab Reform Initiative in Paris. Mr. Tawfik has publicly criticized Egypt’s government, including its counter-terrorism policies in the Sinai.

On November 29, 2015, Egyptian police arrested Mr. Tawfik at Hurghada Airport as he was returning from a conference in Germany. Security agents reportedly took him into custody, confiscated his passport, and questioned him for several hours, before transferring him to a Homeland Security facility in Cairo. On the morning of December 1, he was reportedly brought before the State Security Prosecution in Cairo, where he was interrogated for more than eight hours with his attorney present.

After his interrogation, prosecutors reportedly ordered Mr. Tawfik into pre-trial detention for 15 days, pending an investigation. He was later charged with belonging to a terrorist organization and spreading false information liable to alarm people, disturb public security, and damage public interests. After a year in prison, on November 20, 2016, a court reportedly ordered Mr. Tawfik’s release; however, the public prosecution’s appeal against the decision was accepted. Mr. Tawfik remained in pretrial detention for over three years.

On May 22, 2018, Mr. Tawfik was convicted and sentenced to ten years imprisonment at a hearing in which 20 defendants were tried. Mr. Tawfik was among 18 defendants that were not present for the hearing. On December 25, 2018, the Cairo military court upheld the conviction against Mr. Tawfik. Egyptian authorities have not provided any evidence relating to his membership in a banned organization or his alleged publication of secret information. It appears that the charges and detention of Mr. Tawfik stem from his nonviolent expressive activities as a journalist and researcher. Mr. Tawfik’s conviction is apparently based on his articles, television interviews, participation in academic lectures and conferences, and research.

Advocate: Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA)

Advocacy Partner: Scholars at Risk