Deported Bahraini activist decries 'intimidation' by Cairo airport authorities

Ahram Online, Tuesday 28 Aug 2012

In open letter to President Morsi, prominent Bahraini activist Miriam Al-Khawaja – denied entry into Egypt Sunday – accuses Cairo airport officials of blatant 'intimidation'

Maryam Khawaja
Maryam Al-Khawaja, (Photo: Bahrain Center for Human Rights

Bahraini activist Miriam Al-Khawaja, who was denied entry into Egypt and deported from Cairo International Airport on Sunday, has accused airport security officers of "intimidating" her prior to her deportation the same day.

"My Egyptian attorney insisted on knowing why I was considered a 'threat' to Egypt's national security, and how they [they authorities] could deny me entry after stamping my passport," Al-Khawaja said in an open letter to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.

"We were told that, if I refused to leave voluntarily, I would be forcibly deported to Bahrain,'' the activist added. "To intimidate me further, I was also informed that the Bahraini government had issued an arrest warrant for me."

Al-Khawaja is a prominent Bahraini human rights activist and head of the foreign relations office of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR). The BCHR was originally founded by her father, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who is currently serving a life sentence in Bahrain for so-called crimes against the state.

She was deported from Cairo International Airport on Sunday within hours of her arrival to Egypt. Airport security sources had told Egyptian state news agency MENA that Al-Khawaja's name had been put on the airport's entrance-ban list by Egyptian security authorities.

Al-Khawaja had come close to being deported during a previous visit to Egypt in April, but Cairo airport security had ended up allowing her entry into the country at the last minute.

"Not long ago, Mr. President, you were personally on the receiving end of these arbitrary and unjust practices as a dissident," Al-Khawaja's letter read. "I respectfully ask you today, sir, as a fellow Arab: How can such blatant disregard for the law and basic human dignities continue under your watch?"

She added: "As the acting president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, I write to inform you that I am gravely concerned, as a human rights defender, by the unjust and hostile treatment I was subjected to in the Cairo airport."

Following last year's Tahrir Square uprising, a number of activists and journalists were banned from entering Egypt for undisclosed security reasons, a practice that had been routinely employed by the authoritarian regime of ousted president Hosni Mubarak.

President Morsi – who hails from Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood – was sworn in as the country's first freely-elected head of state on 30 June after winning Egypt's first post-Mubarak presidential election.

During the Mubarak era, Morsi was detained by security forces on more than one occasion due to his association with the Brotherhood, which had been formally outlawed since the 1950s. Membership in the group was finally decriminalised in the wake of Mubarak's ouster.

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