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Egyptian-American arrested in UAE after calling for Cop27 protests in Egypt

Sherif Osman, a former army officer, has been one of the main backers of protests against Sisi during the climate summit now held in Sharm el-Sheikh
US citizen Sherif Othman was arrested upon arrival in Dubai, where he was visiting family (Screengrab/Twitter)
US citizen Sherif Osman was arrested in Dubai, where he was visiting family (Screengrab/Twitter)

Sherif Osman, a US citizen and outspoken supporter of protests against President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has been arrested by UAE authorities after arriving in the country to visit family on Sunday, Middle East Eye has learned.

According to information received from a source close to Osman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, he was in Dubai to visit his sister, a UAE resident, and his mother who was visiting from Egypt. He was arrested by police outside his sister's home, according to the source.

'I'm just hoping civil society groups can help us pressure the UAE to get him out, because the UAE doesn't have a bright human rights record, and it’s really scary'

- Friend of Sherif Osman

Similar information has also been circulating among friends and supporters of Osman since Tuesday, with calls for his whereabouts to be revealed and for him not to be deported to Egypt. 

Osman, a former Egyptian army officer, was one of three exiles who called for anti-government protests in Egypt on 11 November, during the UN climate summit (Cop27), currently being held in the resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh. The demonstration, which has no climate-oriented demands per se, is also being referred to as the 11/11 protest.

Another backer of the protests, Hossam al-Ghamry, has been detained twice by Turkish authorities since last month, and remains in custody.

The main instigator of the protests is Mohamed Ali, the exiled Egyptian contractor whose revelations about his work with the Egyptian army, to build lavish palaces for President Sisi, sparked rare anti-government protests in September 2019.

Egyptian anti-government activists have expressed their fear that Osman is at risk of deportation to Cairo by Emirati authorities. 

Crackdown during Cop27

A friend of Osman who spoke on condition of anonymity said that he advocated for the protests thinking it would be safe for people, since the government would be expected to refrain from use of force during the Cop27 summit.

"I'm just hoping civil society groups can help us pressure the UAE to get him out, because the UAE doesn't have a bright human rights record, and it’s really scary," the friend told MEE.

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"They have a lot of mutual interests with the dictatorship in Cairo."

The 11/11 protest calls have prompted a large-scale crackdown against government critics in Egypt, with nearly 1,000 people detained in recent weeks. 

On Tuesday, Egyptian security forces arrested two lawyers at their homes in Cairo and Giza without specifying a reason, according to a rights group. 

Hisham Sabry, a former Egyptian State Security officer who turned against the government under the rule of former leader Hosni Mubarak, and moved to the US, has called on Egyptian expats to write to their Congress member to demand they ensure Osman is protected from deportation to Egypt.

Middle East Eye has reached out to Interpol to ask if it was involved in the arrest of Osman, and if it would deport him to Cairo.

MEE has also requested comment from the US State Department.

Egypt’s hosting of Cop27, which began on Sunday, has been marred by criticism levelled against the government’s poor human rights record.

The conference attended by world leaders is taking place amid tight restrictions on peaceful assembly and free speech. 

It has also been overshadowed by calls to release the hunger striking political prisoner Alaa Abd el-Fattah

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