Today, 5th of September 2023 marks two years of Egyptian poet Galal El-Behairy’s arbitrary detention after serving his 3 years sentence. Today, 5th of September 2023 El-Behairy starts another hunger strike in order to gain his freedom.
Arbitrarily detained for more than five years, Galal has been unable to spend time with his family. Galal's sister gets married on 11 October 2023. We urge the Egyptian authorities to ensure that Galal is not denied this opportunity to reconnect with his community and heal.
We demand Galal’s immediate and unconditional release.
Previous hunger strike was terminated with medical assistance
On 5 March 2023, 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.
Imprisoned since March 2018
Galal El-Behairy was arrested on 5 March 2018, after the release of Ramy Essam’s song and music video, Balaha, which El-Behairy is lyricist of. Galal El-Behairy was sentenced to 3 years on prison and a 10 000 L.E. fine by the Military Court in Cairo, for his unpublished book of poetry, The Finest Women On Earth.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 stayed imprisoned, having been sentenced already in the Military Court. After serving the 3 years sentence in 2021, Galal stays imprisoned in Egypt.
Avant-Garde Lawyers urge the UN to take urgent action
In June 2023, 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 more >
Galal El-Behairy's letter
During the court hearing on 22 July 2023, the investigative judge said that a song might destroy a country. But, at the same time, he saw that my imprisonment was a chance to write poems and songs. When I told him that the country [authorities] does not allow this kind of poetry, he got outraged, decided to protect me from myself, and ordered an extension to my pre-trial detention.
In August 2021, I was supposed to regain my freedom after I served a three-year sentence following a military trial because of a poetry collection I wrote; however, the National Security officer told me that even “if the Law guaranteed your freedom, society is not done with you yet.” The officer decided to protect society from me. He subjected me to enforced disappearance for a month before sending me to the Supreme State Security Prosecution with trumped-up charges of “belonging to a terrorist group,” “misuse of social media,” and “spreading false news.” The investigation in this case remains open as of today.
Today 5 September 2023, according to the Law, I should be released having spent the maximum legal limit of pre-trial detention. Over two years, the prosecution failed to reach a decision on whether to release me, or refer me to a court to face trial on a crime I [allegedly] committed.
Today, 5 September 2023, I am resuming my hunger strike to demand my freedom because every moment I spend in jail clearly and directly violates my legal and constitutional rights.
I know very well that the “Law” is not an important figure in the equation, but I am trying with all I have until my last breath. I know my chance to be with my sister on her wedding day on 11 October is very low. But I promised her that I would try until the last breath.
I also know that the most probable odds are that the Law will be ignored, and my detention will be extended, or misused, and I will be rotated [reaccused] in a new case, which will deplete another two years of my life, or that they will bend the Law by referring me to trial for any other made up reason.
I do not have anything but hope and try all I have in the face of all these odds.
Galal El-Behairy September 5, 2023