PEN calls for charges of ‘insulting the military’ and ‘spreading false news’ to be quashed in an open letter and publishes a new poem by El-Behairy.
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’s detention has been met with criticism from the international community and PEN centres across the globe, as well as by UN human rights experts.
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.
PEN International and PEN centres have repeatedly called on the Egyptian authorities for El-Behairy’s immediate and unconditional release. PEN centres together with Artists at Risk have released an open letter urging the Egyptian authorities to quash the three-year prison sentence handed down last week. To draw further attention to the case, PEN centres have also published another new poem by Galal El-Behairy from behind bars.