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Egyptian-American political commentator freed from UAE custody, returns home

Egypt's extradition request of Sherif Osman fails

Following a high-profile campaign to secure the freedom of Egyptian-American Sherif Osman after his arrest in Dubai over his criticism of the Egyptian government, Detained in Dubai announced today that Osman has returned home to the United States.

The Egyptian-born US citizen was detained on holiday in the UAE last month over an extradition request by the Egyptian government because of his online criticisms of the regime of Abdel-Fatah El Sisi and his support for protests during the recent COP27 gathering in Sharm el-Sheikh. He was detained since early November and faced imminent deportation to Egypt where human rights activists feared his life would be in danger. “There is no doubt that Sherif would have faced serious risk of abuse in Egyptian custody,” explained Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, who led the campaign for Osman’s release.

His arrest was appalling,” She said, “Sherff was detained for social media content he published in the United States, under his constitutionally-protected right to free speech; yet he was arrested by the UAE, an American ally, with the objective of extraditing him to Egypt, another American ally; where he would have been thrown into a prison system notorious for abuse of political dissidents, and where one American had already lost his life in custody.

“We engaged not only the media and American consular officials on Sherif’s behalf, but also with his congressional representatives; urging the intervention of the US government to prevent his deportation and bring Sherif home. Dubai authorities were intent upon his extradition until his case garnered international attention, and we are extremely grateful for the diplomatic efforts the US undertook to secure his freedom once they became aware of Sherif’s plight.”

Osman had earlier been released on bail in Dubai after weeks in detention pending authorities’ decision on his deportation. “We believe the UAE paused the extradition process after the case reached the media and American officials became involved,” Stirling explained, “Without the scrutiny of the international press, and the concerted effort of campaigners, Sherif’s deportation would likely have been carried out within days of his arrest. Almost 400 people have been extradited from the Emirates in the last 2 years, and Egypt and the UAE have a very strong relationship, so, we regarded Sherif’s case with the utmost urgency. Over half of the population of Egypt’s jails are political prisoners; torture and abuse are routine; Sherif’s life would have been in danger had his deportation not been averted.”

The full details of Osman’s release and return to the US have not been disclosed and the small business owner and social media commentator still needs time to convalesce with his family and recover from his ordeal. “We are immensely relieved that Sherif is finally home,” Stirling said, “This has been a traumatic time for him and his loved ones; it should never have happened, and we hope that the authorities in the US will take steps to ensure that the same thing never happens again to another American citizen.”


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