[BDS] Ramy Shaath released

Ramy Shaath speaks during the launch of BDS Egypt at a conference in Cairo on 20 April 2015 (Hossam al-Hamalawy - Flickr)

Tamara Nassar

The Electronic Intifada  /  January 10, 2022

After more than 30 months in prison, Egypt released the Palestinian activist Ramy Shaath on 6 January.

Shaath lost his Egyptian citizenship in exchange for his release. He was handed over to a representative of the Palestinian Authority in Cairo and flown to Jordan before taking off for France on Saturday.

Egyptian authorities “forced Ramy to renounce his Egyptian citizenship as a precondition for his release,” his family stated.

His release “should have been unconditional after two and a half years of unjust detention under inhumane conditions,” they added.

“No one should have to choose between their freedom and their citizenship.”

Shaath was arrested in 2019 and had been held in pre-trial detention ever since.

He is the co-founder of BDS Egypt, which mounts campaigns against Egyptian normalization with Israel and in support of the Palestinian boycott call.

He is also the son of Nabil Shaath, a Palestine Liberation Organization official long involved in the Oslo process with Israel and an adviser to Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Ramy Shaath was reportedly accused of having ties to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

While there is no evidence to suggest that his arrest was directly linked to his participation in BDS Egypt, some analysts have noted that he irked the Cairo government by speaking out against its foreign policy.

Ramy Shaath was placed on a “terrorist” list in 2020, “an abusive and arbitrary decision taken in Ramy’s absence and that of his lawyers and without any evidence being produced to justify that decision,” his wife Céline Lebrun Shaath told The Electronic Intifada last year.

“I spent the last two and a half years between a few prisons” that lack “rule of law or respect for human dignity,” Shaath told reporters upon his arrival in Paris.

“Two and a half years later, I still have all my resolve and my determination to continue,” he added.

“I am insisting on freeing my friends and my comrades from Egyptian jails. I’m insisting on human rights in Egypt. I’m insisting for a free Palestine.”

President Emmanuel Macron welcomed Shaath’s release on Twitter on Saturday.

Macron suggested that the French government had made every effort to support campaigning by Céline Lebrun Shaath for her husband’s freedom.

Macron previously raised Shaath’s case in his discussions with Egypt’s president, Abdulfattah al-Sisi, asking that he be released.

Priority for Macron ?

Yet the detention of Shaath, who is married to a French national, never seemed to be a bigger priority for Macron than enhancing “defense” cooperation with Egypt.

France is a major supplier of weapons to Egypt’s military.

Israel’s embassy in France was less than delighted at Shaath’s release and tried to smear the BDS movement as inherently anti-Semitic.

France “cannot congratulate itself for welcoming the activist Ramy Shaath, founder of the BDS movement in Egypt, who has just been expelled from that country,” the embassy tweeted on Sunday.

“Boycott and incitement to hatred of Israel and Jews are both prohibited by French law. We are disappointed, as France recently adopted the working definition of anti-Semitism, which includes hatred of Israel.”

The embassy is referring to France’s adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s so-called definition of anti-Semitism, which Israel and its lobbies have pushed around the world to silence criticism of Israeli human rights violations.

It should also be stressed that the European Court of Human Rights has found that calls for boycotting Israel are protected free speech. The court’s June 2020 verdict was delivered following attempts to muzzle the Palestine solidarity movement in France.

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada