On 31 July 2018, as he reached his 150th day in detention, Egyptian poet and lyricist Galal El-Behairy was sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of 10,000 L.E for ‘insulting the military’ and ‘spreading false news’. The charges related to his latest book of poetry The Finest Women on Earth, despite it not yet having been officially published.
El-Behairy also faces additional charges in relation to lyrics written for artist Ramy Essam’s song ‘Balaha’. On 3 March 2018, shortly after the song and music video were released, El-Behairy was arrested. He was held incommunicado for a week before appearing before the High State Security on 10 March, showing signs of severe torture. He has now spent five months in detention.
His detention has been met with criticism from the international community, including PEN centres across the globe, as well as by UN human rights experts:
We are alarmed at the arrest and alleged ill-treatment of Mr. El Behairy which appears to be related solely to the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of artistic expression and creativity.
We recall that all individuals have the right to participate in varied information exchanges, to contribute to artistic expression, and to take part in cultural life and in the development of their society, including through political debate and expression of opinion and dissent, without fear of sanction or reprisals.
PEN strongly condemns the Cairo Military Court’s sentence, which we believe to be in violation of his right to freedom of expression. We call for El-Behairy’s immediate and unconditional release, for his sentence to be quashed and for charges against him to be dropped.
Read and share his work
To draw further international attention to his case ahead of the expected verdict, PEN centres – Danish PEN, English PEN, Finnish PEN, French PEN, German PEN, Norwegian PEN, PEN America, Swedish PEN – and our colleagues at Arablit and Artists at Risk have come together to publish a new poem that El-Behairy has written while in detention.
Spread the word
Share details of Galal El-Behairy’s case with friends and colleagues and on Facebook, Twitter and other social media #FreeGalal #PrisonersOfBalaha
Write to him
If you would be interested in sending a message of support to Galal El-Behairy, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Write to the authorities
Send letters of appeal to the Egyptian authorities:
- Protesting the continued imprisonment of poet Galal El-Behairy and calling for his immediate and unconditional release;
- Demanding that the authorities ensure the full respect of his rights as a prisoner, in accordance with international human rights standards;
- Urging the authorities to quash his sentence and to end the judicial proceedings against El-Behairy, as he is being held solely for her peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression;
- Asking the authorities to guarantee the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression in Egypt, including the release of all detainees held in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Egypt is a State party.
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Office of the President
Al Ittihadia Palace
Fax: +202 2 391 1441
Salutation: Your Excellency
Minister of Defence
Mr. Mohamed Ahmed Zaki
23 El-Khalifa El-Maamoun st
El-Qobba Bridge, Al Waili
Salutation: Dear Minister
Minister of Justice
Mohamed Hossam Abdel Rahim
Ministry of Justice
Fax: +202 2 795 8103
Salutation: Dear Minister
Please also send letters to the Embassy of the Egypt in your country. Addresses may be found here.