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In February 2018 Egyptian artist Ramy Essam released a song and music video, Balaha. Lyricist of the song, poet Galal El-Behairy has been imprisoned in Egypt since. Director of the music video Shady Habash died in custody after being jailed for almost 800 days.

Galal El-Behairy

On 31st of July 2018, poet Galal El-Behairy was sentenced to 3 years on prison and a 10 000 L.E. fine by the Military Court in Cairo, for his unpublished book of poetry, The Finest Women On Earth. Galal also faced charges in a Civilian Court case concerning Balaha, which he has been released from. However, he stays imprisoned, having been sentenced already in the Military Court.

After serving the 3 years sentence, Galal stays imprisoned in Egypt.

On 5 March 2023, Egyptian poet Galal El-Behairy began a hunger strike to mark 5 years of his detention in Egypt. On 1 June 2023, Galal quit drinking water. Shortly after, he had to be hospitalized as he was in need of urgent medical assistance. Avant-Garde Lawyers have urged the United Nations Working Group to take urgent action to ensure Galal's right to life and to physical and mental integrity are respected and to secure his timely release.

Read Galal's hunger strike statement >

Read Galal's letter about hunger & thirst strike >

Read more about Galal:

- UN human rights experts urge release of poet/songwriter

- ARC Story: Galal El-Behairy

- PEN America / ARC statement

- PEN International statement

- Galal's statement, May 2018


- Galal's poetry from behind bars


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Shady Habash


After almost 800 days in prison, photographer and music video director Shady Habash died in Tora Prison, Cairo, on May 1st 2020, because of medical negligence.


Shady was imprisoned since March 2018, because of directing the music video for Egyptian artist Ramy Essam’s song Balaha. Shady didn’t have anything to do with the content of the song. As an award-winning filmmaker Shady was constantly working on Middle Eastern projects, and Balaha was just one of the many music videos that Shady directed in his career. 


What happened to Shady >

Listen & Watch:

Prison Doesn't Kill – The Last Letter of Shady Habash >

Ramy Essam: Filmmaker Shady Habash suffered an injust death >


Shady Habash's case submitted to special rapporteur Agnès Callamard for review and action >

Mustafa Gamal

​Since March 2018 till 8th July 2022, web designer Mustafa Gamal was jailed innocent of any offences. Mustafa has nothing to do with the song and music video Balaha that was the case he faced charges for.

Ramy Essam was one of Mustafa’s clients in 2015 – back then, Mustafa certified Ramy’s fan page on Facebook, and this was the only connection between him and Ramy. When Balaha was released in 2018, him and Ramy had not been in touch since 2015. After the releaseof Balaha in February 2018, Mustafa was jailed in March and has remained in custody since.
On June 1st, 2020, Mustafa got the decision of being released from custody, to be tried in liberty, as the two-year time-limit of detention prescribed by the Egyptian legislation was expired. On July 14th 2020, Mustafa appeared in the case 730, and on January 18th 2021 in the case 65, both in which political prisoners are kept by false charges. 

Mustafa was released from custody on July 8th 2022, as one of the prisoners pardoned on Eid Al-Adha.


Read more:

Human Rights and Culture Groups Call for the Release of Mustafa Gamal >

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