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Rights groups urge UAE to not deport Egyptian-American activist

More than 20 groups fear that if Sherif Osman is deported to Egypt, he will be tortured
Sherif Osman was born in Egypt but hasn't been in the country since before the 2011 uprising
Sherif Osman was born in Egypt but hasn't been in the country since before the 2011 uprising (Screengrab/YouTube)

Dozens of rights groups are urging the United Arab Emirates to not deport an Egyptian-American citizen detained in Dubai who called for protests during the Cop27 climate conference in Egypt.

Sherif Osman, a vocal supporter of protests against Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, was detained at a restaurant in Dubai in November. He had travelled there with his fiancee to visit his sister, a UAE resident, and his mother who was visiting from Egypt.

More than 20 groups have signed a petition calling for Osman's release, saying they are concerned the UAE is planning to deport Osman to Egypt. The groups fear he could face further imprisonment and torture if this happens.

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"We, the undersigned organisations, urge the authorities of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) not to deport Sherif Osman to Egypt, where he would be at high risk of being subjected to torture and other human rights violations," the petition said, which was posted on Wednesday by ALQST for Human Rights on its website.

"We further urge the UAE to release Osman immediately."

The Guardian reported on Wednesday that the UAE is preparing to deport Osman. Middle East Eye reached out to the UAE embassy in Washington for comment, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

"As in each detention case, the UAE strictly adheres to all internationally accepted standards, including regular consular access and legal counsel," an Emirati official said, as reported by The Guardian.

"The UAE continues to work closely with AIMC's relevant authorities to secure the requisite legal documentation required in preparing the extradition file."

Emirati officials have not stated whether they plan to extradite Osman to the US or Egypt, according to the newspaper.

A State Department spokesperson told MEE that the US is aware of Osman's arrest and is "watching his case closely and providing appropriate consular support".

The official added that US embassy officials spoke with Osman on 17 November.

"The Department has no higher priority than the safety and security of US citizens abroad," the spokesperson said.

Wave of fear

Amnesty International said earlier this month that Emirati officials "didn't present an arrest warrant or explain to him or his distraught family the reason for his arrest, and he was taken away in an unmarked car".

After initially saying that it was responding to an Interpol request from Egypt, the UAE later "clarified that the warrant was circulated through the Arab Interior Ministers Council, an institution of the Arab League", according to the rights groups.

Osman was born in Egypt but hasn't been in the country since before the 2011 uprising. 

A former Egyptian army officer, Osman was one of three exiles who called for anti-government protests in Egypt on 11 November during the UN climate summit (Cop27), held in the resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh. The demonstration was also referred to as the 11/11 protest, in which nearly 1,000 people were detained in the ongoing crackdown against government critics in Egypt.

His detention by the UAE, which has close ties to Egypt, has sent a wave of fear through the vast community of Egyptian exiles, including many working for human rights organisations planning to attend Cop28 in Dubai.

A friend of Osman's told MEE in November that the arrest was "really scary" and they thought that advocating for protests in Egypt "would be safe for people".

Amnesty said that since being detained, Osman had not been permitted to meet his lawyer and was prevented from signing a power of attorney document by the Emirati authorities. 

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