Johannesburg rally urges release of S. African held by Egypt

Hundreds of protesters demonstrate outside African Union Summit venue

Johannesburg rally urges release of S. African held by Egypt

World Bulletin / News Desk 

Hundreds of protesters demonstrated on Friday outside the venue of the African Union Summit – currently underway in Johannesburg – to demand the release of a South African national of Egyptian origin detained in Egypt.

“Al-Sisi must go! Free Sheikh Bassiouni!” protesters chanted some 100 meters from the summit’s heavily guarded venue.

Sheikh Abdussalam Bassiouni, a South African national, was arrested by Egyptian authorities six months ago when he traveled to Egypt to attend his daughter’s wedding.

Egyptian authorities accused him of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood – which Egypt designated a “terrorist” group in late 2013 – and have held him without trial ever since.

“We are calling on the AU and the South African government to help us secure the release of our friend and dear brother, Sheikh Bassiouni,” Nazim Adam of the Palestinian Solidarity group said in an address.

He said Bassiouni was a “peace-loving” man who had been falsely accused by Egypt’s security services.

“He is a humanitarian aid worker who has helped uplift many people’s lives in South Africa. We are calling on the AU to help us secure his release,” Adam said.

Protesters, including a number of women and children, carried placards condemning Bassiouni’s ongoing detention without trial in Egypt.

“South African citizen detained for 193 days in Egyptian jail without trial,” one banner read.

Some of the beneficiaries of Bassiouni’s many schools and humanitarian projects broke out in tears as they called for his release.

“He was like a father to me. He paid my tuition fees and encouraged me to study,” 25-year-old Bilal Mohamed told Anadolu Agency.

Another protester said he was afraid to travel to Egypt, fearing he too could be wrongly accused and arrested.

South African activist Iqbal Jassat, for his part, expressed hope that the AU leadership and visiting dignitaries would hear their pleas and take steps to exert pressure on Egypt to release the ailing academic.

“The message we are sending by this protest is that it’s illegal to be arrested without trial,” Mohamed Jalal, one of the demonstrators, told Anadolu Agency.

He blamed the South African government for failing to intervene to secure the academic’s release.

“We wouldn’t be here if our government had taken steps to release Sheikh Bassiouni. But they forced us to stage this protest to ask the AU for help,” he said.

He went on to urge the pan-African body to press Egypt to end its ongoing crackdown on members and supporters of the embattled Muslim Brotherhood.

Protesters performed Friday prayers on a road adjacent to the summit venue, drawing the attention of several passersby and some AU delegates.

At one point, protest organizers called on the South African police to remove two men they alleged were Egyptian security agents who had reportedly been taking photographs of protesters.

Demonstrators said they intend to present a petition articulating their demand for Bassiouni’s release to an AU representative.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 12 Haziran 2015, 17:28