Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) commends the release of Egyptian Qur’anist Muslim Reda Abdel Rahman, who spent a year and a half in pretrial detention for his religious beliefs. On February 27, Abdel Rahman was released from the Kafr Saqr Police Station after the Zagazig Criminal Court ordered his release the week before.
“We are absolutely thrilled to see Reda at home with his family,” said Commissioner Sharon Kleinbaum who advocated for Abdel Rahman as part of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project. “I commend Egyptian authorities for rectifying this injustice and look forward to Reda and his family living in peace, free from harassment or prosecution for their religious beliefs.”
Egyptian security forces detained Abdel Rahman and several of his family members in August 2020, questioning him about his religious beliefs and his relationship with his uncle, Qur’anist scholar and former USCIRF fellow Dr. Ahmed Sobhy Mansour. Egyptian authorities released Abdel Rahman’s relatives after a few days but held Abdel Rahman incommunicado for more than 40 days. In October 2020, he appeared in front of state prosecution falsely accused of joining the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and “promoting religious extremism.” He was charged with joining a terrorist organization and spreading false news.
“The prolonged detention of religious minorities in Egypt for expressing their religious beliefs and supporting religious freedom must come to an end,” added Commissioner Tony Perkins. “Egypt must continue to work to fully implement its commitment to ensuring equal rights and protections, regardless of religion or belief, including removing religion from identity documents and lifting the bans on specific religious groups like Baha’is and Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
Although Egypt has taken positive steps towards improving religious freedom conditions in recent years—such as Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s public statements in support of religious pluralism, the renovation of religious heritage sites, and the passage of the 2016 Church Building Law—systematic challenges have hindered further progress. USCIRF’s November 2021 Egypt Country Update notes that Egypt’s blasphemy law, the slow implementation of the Church Building Law, and state-facilitated marginalization and discrimination of religious minorities remain ongoing obstacles. In its 2021 Annual Report, USCIRF continued to recommend that the U.S. Department of State place Egypt on its Special Watch List for engaging in severe violations of international religious freedom.
SOURCE United States Commission on International Religious Freedom