Freemuse calls for charges to be dropped against Egyptian poet

17 May 2018

Poet Galal El-Behairy has been detained on charges of insulting the Egyptian army and Islam over lyrics for a song and latest poetry book.

Egyptian poet Galal El-Behairy is set to appear in a military court trial on 9 May 2018 over charges of “spreading false news” and “insulting the army”—­sentences that carry a two-year and three-year prison term, respectively—related to the release of his latest book of poetry “The Finest Women on Earth”, according to Freemuse sources.

UPDATE: The poet’s sentencing has been postponed twice, first to 16 May and then to 27 June, sources reported to Freemuse on 17 May 2018.

Freemuse remains concerned about the continued and swift deterioration of the space for expression in Egypt and the targeting of artists for their expressions that are seen by authorities as anti-administration, anti-Islam or damaging to the nation and its security.

“Egyptian authorities must respect the tenets of plurality of opinion that are fundamental to a functioning democracy. Further, authorities must also abide by international human rights standards which outline that civilians must not be tried in military courts. The decision to use the military court against the poet speaks volumes about the freedom of artistic expression, not to mention the level of free, fair, transparent and impartial administration of justice,” Freemuse Executive Director Dr Srirak Plipat said.

Freemuse calls for the military trial and charges against Galal El-Behairy to be dropped, as well as in a parallel civil case involving him and another artist.

The poet is also facing a parallel civil case related to his lyrics being used in a song by Egyptian musician Ramy Essam, who himself has a warrant for his arrest over the song and accompanying video. In this case, the artists have been brought up on charges of insulting Islam and the current administration.

The poet was arrested on 3 March 2018, just three days after Essam’s music video for the song “Balaha” was released on social media on 28 February. After his arrest, the poet had not been seen or heard from until 10 March when he was brought before state prosecution. The artist reportedly showed signs of torture.

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