After 489 days on hunger strike in prison, Mohamed Soltan gives up Egyptian citizenship, deported to US

Ahram Online , Saturday 30 May 2015

Soltan's lawyer confirms his client, who has been standing trial on various criminal charges related to the 2013 Brotherhood-led Rabaa sit-in, was forced to rescind his Egyptian nationality to secure deportation

Mohamed Soltan
Mohamed Soltan in Jordan in 2012, where he traveled to deliver some aid to Syrian refugees there (Photo: Courtesy of Soltan Family)

After 643 days in jail and 489 on hunger strike, Egyptian-American Mohamed Soltan, who was sentenced to life in prison in April, has given up his Egyptian nationality in order to be deported Saturday to the United States, a member of Soltan's defence team told Ahram Online.

Lawyer Halem Henish said that the procedures for his deportation were finalised last week after a long delay, because "Soltan absolutely rejected the idea of giving up his Egyptian nationality".

However, after the verdict of life in prison - which carries a 25-year prison sentence under Egypt's penal code - was issued against him in April, "Soltan's family and lawyers pressured him to give up his nationality as there was no other option," Henish added.

Soltan was arrested in August 2013, and charged with setting up an operations room at the Rabaa Al-Adawiya protest camp supporting ousted Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi, inciting violence and murder, attacks on public employees among other charges.

His family say he was not a member of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, insisting that he returned to Egypt from the US in 2013 to care of his sick mother.

According to a law passed by President Abdel-Fattah El- Sisi in 2014, foreign nationals who are convicted in crimes they committed in Egypt can be deported to serve their sentences or be retried in their own country.

In February 2015, the Egyptian government used the law to deport Al Jazeera Australian journalist Peter Greste who was standing retrial in Cairo on charges of abetting terrorism dating back to late 2013.

Shortly after Greste's deportation, Mohamed Fahmy -- an Egyptian-Canadian Al Jazeera TV producer -- who was a co-defendant of Greste, was forced to rescind his Egyptian citizenship, hoping the government would also deport him after spending months in jail on trial and retrial. Cairo, however, has so far declined to deport him, and he continues to stand retrial with the remaining co-defendants.

"The US government has successfully secured Mohamed's deportation back home to the US, mercifully concluding this dark chapter for Mohamed and our family," Soltan's family said in a statement on Saturday.

Egypt's general prosecution also released a statement on Saturday saying that the decision to deport Soltan's deportation is in compliance with Egyptian law.

"He can continue serving his prison sentence in the United States."

Once he lands in the US, Soltan will receive medical treatment and spend the immediate future with his family recovering.

Soltan's health conditions deteriorated rapidly during 16 months on hunger strike and 643 days behind bars in total. 

He lost half his body weight, according to his family.

The 27-year-old was admitted to hospitals for brief periods more than once.

The ministry of interior has maintained all along that Soltan's health was stable despite his refusal to eat.

On social media, photos of Soltan before his arrest and during his hunger strike show the significant weight loss.

During his trial, the Cairo Criminal Court rejected several requests by Soltan's defence team to release him based on his deteriorating medical condition.

Last year, at least 12 rights groups filed a request for the court to release Soltan on medical grounds, but the court rejected the effort, describing it as "a blatant intervention in judicial work".

The rights groups which attempted to advocate for Soltan's release included the freedoms committee of the Doctors' Syndicate, Al-Nadeem Centre for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), and the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI).

Aida Seif El-Dawla, one of the leading rights activists who campaigned for Soltan's release from jail, who at one point during Soltan's saga went on hunger strike herself in solidarity with him and other hunger strikers in jail, offered words of support and defiance on her Facebook page.

"[Soltan] was always an Egyptian, no thanks to any decree by the ministry of interior. He will never cease to be an Egyptian regardless of any decree by the ministry of interior…You will remain Egyptian, a patriot, and a courageous person wherever you are."

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