(New York, April 10, 2010) – Kuwait’s State Security forces should stop arresting and deporting expatriate supporters of Egyptian opposition candidate Dr. Mohammad al-Baradei, Human Rights Watch said today. Kuwait should immediately release all remaining Egyptian detainees and allow those deported to return to their homes in Kuwait.
Following the arrests of three Egyptian citizens on April 8, 2010, Kuwait security forces detained over half of approximately 30 people who met on April 9 to discuss the arrests, and deported as many as 21 Kuwaiti residents with Egyptian citizenship, over a period of 48 hours.
"Kuwait is enabling Egypt’s repression by harassing al-Baradei supporters,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Kuwaitis should be asking why their security services are harassing Egyptians seeking reform at home, instead of protecting domestic security interests."
Mohammad Farrag Mohammad al-Farghally, Tamar Farrag Mohammad al-Farghally, and Tariq Tharwat – Egyptian citizens detained on April 8 after they attended a small meeting of Baradei supporters at a local café – have not returned home or seen their families since late that night. Amira al-Farghally, Mohammad’s wife, told Human Rights Watch that four men in civilian clothing escorted her husband, in handcuffs, to their home around midnight on April 8. The officers stayed only a few minutes, seizing campaign t-shirts that pictured al-Baradei and the Egyptian flag with the slogan ‘Min agl it-taghyeer’ (For Change).
“When I asked them why they were arresting him, they said, ‘don’t worry yourself; we are just taking him to [the] investigations [department]; he will be back soon insha’allah,’" she said. “I am alone here in Kuwait, with just my 10-month-old son.
On the evening of April 9, a group of approximately 30 individuals met in front of the Sultan Center supermarket and restaurant in the Salmiya area to discuss a response to the first three arrests. The National Association for Change, a group formed by al-Baradei, posted the meeting and details on its website; participants had not met each other before. According to one attendee, state security officers suddenly converged upon those assembled, seizing between 15 and 20 of those present.
“They asked us why we were standing here. We said that we came here according to what we read on the internet, on Dr. al-Baradei’s website,” the attendee told Human Rights Watch. He said that when those assembled told the security officers, “We are just sitting; we will go now,” they said, “It is forbidden to stand like this.” He said that then they started to take people away.
Kuwait’s Minister of Interior, Sheikh Jaber al-Khaled al-Sabah, told Human Rights Watch on April 10 that those arrested and deported broke Kuwait’s laws on public gathering and slander by criticizing Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
“They are visitors in Kuwait, and we look at them as visitors in Kuwait. When somebody breaks the law, he has to go back to his country,” al-Sabah stated. “We don’t allow demonstrations in this country.”
Article 12 of Kuwait’s 1979 law concerning public gatherings prohibits non-citizens from participating in processions, demonstrations, or public gatherings in Kuwait. Mahmoud Samy, one of those arrested on April 9, told Human Rights Watch that he was the first of those detained to be released. Security officers permitted him to return home early on April 10, around 1 a.m. local time.
“They mentioned that I might have to be transferred back to Egypt,” he said. Samy has lived in Kuwait for over ten years. “They told me that it is against the law for more than 20 people to assemble in Kuwait without applying for a permit. They said that the others would be gradually given their freedom, but some of them might have to be taken away from Kuwait.”
On April 10, the government deported 17 Egyptian citizens back to Cairo, including Tamer Farrag Mohammad al-Farghally.
“Kuwait only selectively enforces its restrictions on freedom of assembly, which in any event violate a basic human right to freely assemble and express views,” said Whitson. “By deporting longtime residents and members of the business community, the Kuwaiti government is discriminating against Egyptian residents, depriving them of their homes and jobs in just one day.”
More than 250,000 Egyptian citizens currently live and work in Kuwait.
Al-Baradei, the Egyptian former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, formed the National Association for Change in March, and Facebook supporters for his potential presidential campaign swelled to more than 200,000. Egypt’s presidential elections are scheduled for September 2011. The attack on al-Baradei supporters in Kuwait follows this week’s brutal attack by Egyptian security forces on a demonstration in Cairo, including the beating and arrests of more than 90 demonstrators who were demanding an end to Egypt’s security laws.