Family Problems Behind American Woman Arrest and Detention in Egyptian Jail

  • An Egyptian brother, whose sister was detained on arrival at Cairo International Airport last month, said family problems might be behind his sister's arrest.
  • Mustafa Hamed called US President Donald Trump in a video message to intervene with the Egyptian authorities to release his mother.
  • Human Rights Watch quoted US press sources saying that Reem was detained on arrival in Egypt with her son and the boy was released shortly after her mother was sent to al-Qanater women's prison on charges of joining the Muslim Brotherhood.

An Egyptian, whose sister was detained on arrival at Cairo International Airport from Washington last month, said that family problems might be behind his sister’s arrest. Mustafa Desouki told news reporters that he was looking after his 13-year-old nephew, Mustafa Hamed, after his mother and other uncles were arrested.

Mustafa Hamed called US President Donald Trump in a video message to intervene with the Egyptian authorities to release his mother. Egyptian authorities arrested Reem Mohamed Desouki, upon her arrival at Cairo International Airport, with her son Mustafa. Days later, Egypt’s Supreme State Prosecutor ordered the mother to be detained for 15 days and deported to al-Qanater prison. Her son and her brother Noor went to visit her, and Noor was also arrested and the son was left alone.

“We were just looking forward to spending the summer vacation with our family in Egypt,” the boy said in a video clip sent to a Washington-based human rights organization. “Please, President Trump, please United States help us, I want my mother,” he said in the video.

Reem Mohammad Al-Dessouki with her son, Mustafa.

Al Qanater Prison

Human Rights Watch quoted US press sources saying that Reem was detained on arrival in Egypt with her son, and the boy was released shortly after her mother was sent to al-Qanater women’s prison on charges about joining the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt classifies the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group and bans all its activities. In April, the United States announced that it was considering to include the Muslim Brotherhood on the US list of “foreign terrorist groups.”

But Reem’s brother, Mustafa Desouki, said Reem was not politically active. “Reem is a resident of the United States and has no interest in politics.”

“The issue was family problems after filing a divorce lawsuit against her husband,” Mustafa said that he never visited his sister, who is being held in Qanater prison north of Cairo. “It was a regular visit and my sister was taking the divorce papers because she was in charge of this matter. I don’t know why she was arrested.”

Activists on social media have launched campaigns to free Reem. The Egyptian embassy in Washington and the Egyptian Foreign Ministry had no comment on the case.

In recent months, Human Rights Watch has documented six cases in which Egyptian authorities have detained Egyptian dual nationals, including a Canadian, an Australian and two Germans.

US State Department is aware of the detention reports. “As usual, when we learn about a US citizen detention, we ask the authorities to immediately enable the consular body to meet with people arrested,” a State Department official told CNN.

The Muslim Brotherhood is a Sunni Islamist organization in Egypt. In 2013, the group was banned and declared a terrorist organization.

“Official inquiries”

“It is possible that the malicious report could lead to the arrest of someone, but it is difficult for the detention to continue for a month on the basis of an issue of this kind,” Egyptian human rights lawyer Nejad El Borai said.

He explained, “There must be investigations from official bodies  and this is a case where the names of passengers are checked at  the airport and matched with lists waiting to arrive.”

“Probably social media activity is the reason. Recently, social media is no longer a place for the expression of opinion, it has become a scene for catching people,” Nejad El Borai said.

The Egyptian authorities recently enacted several laws enabling them to track down those who spread threats to national security through social media. Dozens of activists have been arrested recently for writing on their Facebook and Twitter profiles.

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Benedict Kasigara

I have been working as a freelance editor/writer since 2006. My specialist subject is film and television having worked for over 10 years from 2005 during which time I was the editor of the BFI Film and Television.

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