AMMAN: Egyptian-Palestinian activist Ramy Shaath arrived in France on Saturday after almost two and a half years in detention in Egypt, with his family saying he had to renounce his Egyptian nationality.
Nabil Shaath, Ramy’s father and one of the leading Palestine Liberation Organization officials, told Arab News that he spoke to his son after he was freed and said his spirits are high, though the past few days had been very difficult for him.
“Ever since the Egyptian appeals courts vindicated Ramy of all charges, he was not released by the Egyptian authorities until he agreed to renounce his Egyptian citizenship,” he said.
Nabil added that the Egyptian government wanted him to be deported to Palestine. “We refused this suggestion knowing full well that the Israelis, who control all borders, would arrest him.”
The Egyptians agreed to release him to Palestinian officials in Egypt on the condition he traveled first to Amman. After coordination with PLO officials in the Jordanian capital, he traveled to Paris where he met his wife and family, Nabil told Arab News.
Egyptian law allows for the government to arrest any citizen without explanation for two years after which the prisoner has a choice of going to court or to the authorities to decide his fate.
According to his father, Ramy Shaath chose to go to court. “I am glad that Ramy decided to take the court channel and that his release was based on the decision of the appeals court which vindicated him of all charges, but I am sorry that the Egyptian authorities chose to strip him of his citizenship in a country he was proud of belonging to,” he said.
Nabil told Arab News that his son, married to a French woman, would now seek French citizenship.
A family statement celebrated his freedom and thanked “all the volunteers, the human rights organizations, public figures, and thousands of citizens from the Arab region, diaspora, and the world who advocated for his release.
“We are also grateful to the hundreds of lawmakers and government officials who publicly and privately championed Ramy’s case, particularly those who have done so steadfastly and against all odds in France, Europe, and the United States,” it said.
Welcoming his release, French President Emanuel Macron tweeted: “I welcome the decision of the Egyptian authorities to release Ramy Shaath. I share the relief of his wife Celine Le Brun, whom he finds in France, with whom we have not given up. Thank you to everyone who played a positive role in this happy outcome.”
Nisreen Haj Ahmad, director of Ahel, a Jordan-based organization that trains leaders in launching collective action, told Arab News that the concerted campaign by his wife and family attracted support from around the world. “It built power and used creative tactics,” she said. “Resilience is the secret of this success.”
Haj Ahmad, a friend of the couple, said she hopes all political prisoners in Arab countries can gain their freedom. “The freedom of Ramy Shaath is evidence of the people’s power and the importance of organizing despite difficult contexts,” she said.
Ramy Shaath was the Egyptian coordinator of the Palestinian-initiated Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. It was widely understood that his arrest was carried out as a gesture to the Israeli government. He was charged with terrorism, and had he been convicted, all his property in Egypt would have been confiscated by the state.