The World Movement for Democracy (WMD) expressed grave concern to learn that the 10-year sentence of renowned researcher and journalist Ismail Alexandrani was upheld by a military court on December 24, 2018. It calls for his immediate and unconditional release and urge the government to cease the harassment of independent voices in Egypt.
WMD deplored that Alexandrani was sentenced on May 22, 2018 on politically-motivated charges of “divulging state secrets” and “membership of a banned group,” for his vocal concern over military action in the contested Sinai Peninsula. This military activity has reportedly left thousands of civilians homeless and without stable access to food and other necessities.
After spending nearly three years in pretrial detention—illegal under Egyptian law—the State Security Prosecution transferred his case to a military court without informing his legal counsel. When the court finally sentenced Alexandrani in absentia, he was not provided official confirmation and only learned via word of mouth. Following his conviction, a series of contradictory statements by Egyptian authorities sowed further confusion among his family and international community regarding the status of his case.
At the time of his sentencing, the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) warned that the arrests of prominent democracy advocates signal President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s intention to further transform Egypt from an environment that “limits independent political space” to one that “wants to eliminate it entirely.” Since his virtually-uncontested re-election in March 2018, President al-Sisi has increasingly targeted civil society and media with arbitrary detentions and judicial harassment.
Alexandrani, a winner of the World Youth Movement for Democracy’s International Essay Contest on Youth and Democracy, is a well-known expert on Sinai affairs and Islamic movements in Egypt. He also previously served as a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy and is a research fellow at the Paris-based Arab Reform Initiative.