Egypt: PEN publishes new work by imprisoned poet Galal El Behairy

Poet Galal El-Behairy was arrested in Egypt on 3 March 2018. He was held incommunicado for a week before appearing before the High State Security on 10 March, showing signs of severe torture. The High State Security Prosecution subsequently ordered for him to undergo a forensic medical examination: the findings of the examination have not been made public, nor shared with his lawyer.

More than three months later, El-Behairy remains in detention, facing charges in both the Military Court and the High State Security Court. The charges are believed to relate to his latest book of poetry ‘The Finest Women on Earth’, despite it not having been published. El-Behairy is also under investigation in relation to lyrics he wrote for artist Ramy Essam’s song ‘Balaha’, which criticises Egyptian government policies. Following the release of the song and music video on 26 February and prior to El-Behairy’s arrest, both he and Essam became victims of a smear campaign led by pro-government media.

On 6 May, El-Behairy attended a trial in the Military Court where he was informed that the verdict in relation to his book of poetry would be handed down three days later, on 9 May. The verdict was later postponed until 16 May, and is now expected on 27 June, El-Behairy’s birthday.

UPDATE (28 June 2018): As poet Galal El-Behairy spent his 28th birthday in prison in Egypt, the verdict in his case was postponed yet again. It is now expected on 28 July, meaning he will spend yet another month in detention. 

PEN believes that El-Behairy is being held in violation of his right to freedom of expression and urges the Egyptian authorities to release him and the many other writers and activists unlawfully detained in Egypt immediately and unconditionally.

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 are coming together to publish a new poem that El-Behairy has written while in detention, and to continue calls for his release.

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


Spread the word
Join us in sharing Galal’s piece, details of his case and calls to action on social media. If possible, please join the Twitterstorm from 1pm on Saturday 9 June. #FreeGalal

Sign the petition
Add your support to the petition for Galal’s release

For further background information, please see PEN’s open letter to the Egyptian authorities

About Cat Lucas

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

View all posts by Cat Lucas →

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