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Egyptian-American activist arrives in US after release from UAE custody

While in detention, rights groups feared he would be extradited to Egypt and face imprisonment and torture after calling for protests
Sherif Osman hugs his fiancee as he arrives in the United States on Wednesday (Screengrab/Twitter)

An Egyptian-American national arrived in the United States on Wednesday after he was released from custody in the United Arab Emirates, where he had been detained since 6 November.

Sherif Osman was detained in the UAE after criticising Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and calling for protests ahead of Cop27, the UN climate summit that was held in the resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh.

"It was great to reunite with my beautiful fiancee, help heal one another from what we went through. The challenge was beyond our capacity but so many heroes have stepped in to help [save] my life and make this moment possible," he tweeted on Thursday.

Osman was detained in Dubai while visiting his sister, a UAE resident, and his mother who was visiting from Egypt.

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During his detention, rights groups feared he might be extradited to Egypt, a close UAE ally, where he could face imprisonment and torture.

Osman, a former Egyptian army officer, was one of three exiles who called for anti-government protests in Egypt on 11 November. The demonstration, which had no climate-oriented demands per se, was also being referred to as the 11/11 protest.

Another backer of the protests, prominent journalist Hossam al-Ghamry, was detained twice by Turkish authorities since late October, and remains in custody.

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

Fears of extradition

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".

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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.

His detention by the UAE 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 while 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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