Egypt frees Coptic rights activist Ramy Kamel

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Egyptian authorities have released Coptic rights activist Ramy Kamel after more than two years spent in pre-trial detention, his family said Saturday.

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Kamel is a founding member of the Maspero Youth Union, a Coptic human rights organization born in the wake of the January 2011 protests that toppled Egypt’s longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.

“Rami is among his family... time to celebrate!” his sister Bossi Kamel wrote on Facebook.

Kamel was arrested in November 2019, accused of joining a terror group, receiving foreign funding and spreading false information.

His supporters said he had been sharing footage of sectarian violence in southern Egypt on social media, for which he had received a warning from authorities.

His arrest was condemned at the time by human rights organizations, which have repeatedly called for his release.

In a November 2021 report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said the charges against Kamel were “spurious” and that he had “neither been offered release on bail nor granted an actual trial -- only periodic sham hearings that perpetually extend his detention”.

Kamel’s arrest was likely a bid to prevent him speaking about the persecution of religious minorities at a United Nations conference, USCIRF said in the report.

USCIRF and others have raised concerns about the activist’s mental and physical health, saying he has been kept in solitary confinement and suffers from acute asthma which has worsened in detention.

Coptic Christians, the largest non-Muslim religious minority in the Middle East, make up about 10 to 15 percent of Egypt’s predominantly Sunni Muslim population of 100 million.

They have long faced sectarian discrimination and complain that they are sidelined from senior posts in the justice system, universities, the police, and the military.

They also have endured intermittent sectarian attacks, especially in remote and impoverished villages in southern Egypt.

There have been incidents of Copts being forcibly evicted from their homes by Muslim neighbors in southern Egypt, often with the tacit approval of authorities.

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