Egypt banned Mohamed Lotfy, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms’ (ECRF) executive director, from travelling to Germany from Egypt on Tuesday.
Lotfy was on his way to Berlin to take part in a roundtable discussion in the German parliament when travel security officers took his passport during the security check.
“They took my passport, wrote some comments down after looking at it and took it to a plainclothes officer, who I think is a National Security officer,” Lotfy told Daily News Egypt. He added that “the officer told me ‘you are not going to travel today’.”
Lotfy asked if the ban came with an order from the public prosecutor, but the officer told him that this ban is due to “security concerns”.
“It is very telling that this should happen on the same day that [President Abdel Fattah] Al-Sisi and his supporters are also going to Germany,” Lotfy said in reference to Egyptian President Al-Sisi’s scheduled visit to Germany.
Lotfy said that “it shows that only supporters are to be heard”.
The ECRF called on the Egyptian state to “stop the exceptional measures against Egyptian civil society, end limits on public freedoms, stop utilising the same repressive measures used by earlier regimes, and learn from the lessons of the Egyptian revolution”.
The police officers also told Lotfy that “security agencies will contact him in order to schedule a meeting with him, without revealing which agency specifically”, the ECRF statement said.
Lotfy told Daily News Egypt that his passport was confiscated and that the National Security officer told him he will get it back when they “meet”.
President Al-Sisi is scheduled to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on 3 June. In a joint letter, international rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Front Line Defenders and more called on Germany to “freeze transfers of arms and security-related items that can be used for repression until Egypt investigates and brings to justice the security forces responsible for unlawful killings of hundreds of protesters”.
This is the first time that Lotfy has been banned from travelling. In January 2015, a group of Egyptian rights organisations called in an open letter for an end to the authorities’ “harassment of human rights defenders and civil society organisations and their staff”. The letter also stated that travel bans were unconstitutional, and infringed of the right to freedom of movement.
According to the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), academics and researchers are also required to receive security approval before travelling for work abroad.
The ECRF called the ban an attempt to close off the public sphere, and to isolate Egyptians from the international community.