CAIRO: A US citizen was denied entry into Egypt on Tuesday night amidst speculation that involvement in a pro-Gaza march might be the cause of his being refused entry.
Travis Randall, a resident of Egypt, arrived at Cairo Airport at around 9 pm, coming from London, and was pulled out of the line at passport control.
“I m currently in a security personnel office. They re treating me OK but keep threatening to take my mobile phone away every time I make a call, Randall told Daily News Egypt by telephone at around 11 pm.
“I m being asked whether I ve ever been in trouble before in Egypt by a security officer, Randall continued.
Approximately one hour later, the 27-year-old was informed that he had been denied entry into Egypt and would have to buy an airplane ticket back to London. The US Embassy informed him by telephone that they were unable to take any action.
“All that the officer would tell me is that I had some trouble in Egypt previously. He claimed not to have any idea about why I wasn t being allowed in and said he was just following orders, he said.
Randall, who was employed on a USAID project in Egypt, said that he had “no idea where he would go.
“All my stuff is in Egypt, my job, everything … I m meant to be in work meetings tomorrow [Wednesday] morning. I don t know where I ll go now. I have friends in London who I ll stay with when I arrive but after that I just don t know, Randall told Daily News Egypt.
Randall said jokingly that he had thought about telling security officers that he would visit friends in Jerusalem instead of returning to London but “didn t think that would go down too well.
Randall s mobile phone and laptop computer were subsequently confiscated. He was scheduled to board a plane bound for London at 7:35 am on Wednesday.
As news of Randall s ordeal spread on instant-messaging service Twitter, speculation about the causes of the decision to deny him entry turned to his involvement in a pro-Gaza march held on Feb. 6 of this year in north Cairo.
Randall was part of a group of 14 who took part in the To Gaza march to raise awareness of the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
The march took place just a month after the end of the December 2008-Janury 2009 Israeli offensive on Gaza when the Egyptian authorities came under fire from some commentators who criticized the response of Egypt – which shares a border with Gaza – to the humanitarian situation there.
The group, composed mostly of foreigners, was detained for three hours at the end of the march before German-Egyptian activist Philip Rizk was kidnapped by state security officers and held incommunicado for four days.
Several other Egyptian activists were also detained and held incommunicado around the same time and interrogated about their involvement in pro-Gaza activism and links with the area.
There remain doubts however, about the theory that Randall was denied entry because of his involvement in the February march: three other foreign nationals, including a US citizen, who took part in the march have left and reentered Egypt without incident.
Several activists have recently been stopped at Cairo Airport. In April of this year Laila El-Haddad, who blogs under the name of Gazamom, was detained with her two young children for over 24 hours while attempting to leave Cairo airport en route to Gaza. She was forced to board an airplane back to the US.
In July Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas was detained for hours at the airport upon his return from a seminar in Sweden. He was subsequently released minus his laptop, which has still not been returned to him.