Egypt: poet and lyricist Galal El-Behairy sentenced to three years in prison

UPDATE (28 January 2019): Ten months into his three-year prison sentence, imprisoned poet Galal El-Behairy has launched a hunger strike, alongside fellow detainees.

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.

Read Galal El-Behairy’s ‘A letter from Tora Prison’

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

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
Twitter: @AlsisiOfficial

Minister of Defence  

Mr. Mohamed Ahmed Zaki
23 El-Khalifa El-Maamoun st
El-Qobba Bridge, Al Waili
Cairo Governorate
Salutation: Dear Minister

Minister of Justice

Mohamed Hossam Abdel Rahim
Ministry of Justice
Lazoghly Sq
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.

About Cat Lucas

Cat Lucas is English PEN's Writers at Risk Programme Manager

View all posts by Cat Lucas →

3 Comments on “Egypt: poet and lyricist Galal El-Behairy sentenced to three years in prison”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *