Egypt’s Emergency State Security Court on Sunday ordered–for the seventh time–the release of an Egyptian Shia Muslim illegally arrested for alleged involvement in planned terrorist activity.Mohammed Farouk al-Sayed was one of 12 Egyptian Shia Muslims to have been arrested since May of last year. Some of the men were later released, while five currently remain in Â detention.
When the court previously ruled to release al-Sayed, the Ministry of Interior simply countermanded the order.
Such a policy, read a statement issued on Sunday by the Cairo-based Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), “reveals the despotic nature of the Ministry of Interior and [the fact] that it’s not subject to the rule of law.â€
Apart from its large Christian minority, Egypt is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim. Some local rights groups claim that non-Sunni Muslims, including Shias, are regularly exposed to systematic intimidation.
According to Adel Ramadan, a lawyer with EIPR, Shia Muslims–Egyptian nationals or otherwise–are subject to “systematic violations by the state.”
Al-Sayed had been one of a group of Shia Muslims who had held regular peaceful meetings. Egyptâ€™s State Security Investigations Service, however, suspected the gatherings were related to terrorism and therefore represented a possible threat to Egyptian national security, Ramadan noted.
“In the arrest memo [issued by the Ministry of Interior], the report must indicate the reason for arrest,” Ramadan said. â€œIn all cases involving Shia Muslims, there’s a reference to â€˜terroristâ€™ operations.â€
Crackdowns on Shia Muslims have become commonplace in Egypt–including arrests, detention and lawsuits–in recent years, according to reports by local human rights groups.
Last week, a group of detained Shia Muslims, some of whom were foreign nationals, won a court ruling ordering their release. Nevertheless, several of them still remain in detention.