Free Ahmed Samir

Campaigning for the release of the political prisoner in Egypt


Free Ahmed Samir advocates for the release of Ahmed Samir Santawy, a master student in Central European University in Vienna who has been arbitrarily detained in Egypt on trumped-up charges since 1 February. He was denied access to legal representation and contact to his family

Ahmed is studying anthropology at the Central European University (CEU) in Vienna, doing research primarily on women’s rights and the history of reproductive rights in Egypt. After Ahmed left for his family in Egypt for the semester break, he was summoned by the police in Cairo. On February 1, 2021, officers arrested him. Ahmed was detained and interrogated for five days without any contact with his family or legal counsel.

Ahmed was formally charged with “joining a terrorist organization”, “deliberately spreading false news and data”, and “use of a private account on the Internet to spread false news or data”. These charges are based on screenshots from a Facebook account which allegedly belongs to him. His pre trial detention has already been extended 3 times without a hearing or lawyers. This prolonged pre-trial detention is often used in Egypt to arbitrarily detain human rights activists, journalists, lawyers and opposition politicians.

During the February-6 hearing, Ahmed reported that he had been subjected to beating, and ill-treatment by the National Security Agency during his interrogation on February 1, 2021. He was reportedly slapped on the face and severely beaten during the three-hour interrogation, in order to force him to confess crimes he did not commit. He was blindfolded and handcuffed for prolonged periods of time in the days following the interrogation. His lawyers requested his referral of to the forensics in order to verify the allegations of ill-treatment, but the prosecution did not order it and no investigation has been opened into these allegations.

Ahmed’s detention is the latest case in a series of imprisonments of falsely-accused international students and researchers. The actions against Ahmed coincide with the one-year anniversary of University of Bologna postgraduate student Patrick George Zaki’s illegal imprisonment, and echo the cases of PhD students Walid al-Shobaky and Giulio Regeni.

The targeting of scholars and students by the Egyptian security apparatus is part of a larger agenda to silence open discussion and intellectual production. Ahmed’s academic work deals with the history of family planning in Egypt, and advocates safe and legal access to healthcare procedures for women. His work is an example of the critical importance of scholarship for the present that we all inhabit. We refuse to stand for the Egyptian state’s attack on academic freedom, in Ahmed’s case in particular, and the cases of all persecuted scholars, in general.

Ahmed Samir Santawy is a prisoner of conscience. He is innocently in custody and must be released immediately. He was arrested for doing research, for pursuing knowledge and being curious. Academic freedom and the ability to pursue knowledge is vital to keep us progressing, Ahmed should not be in prison, he needs to be free. Free Ahmed!

On Saturday 20th March, there will be a protest in Berlin for Ahmed’s freedom. It will take place at 3pm at the Rathaus Neukölln. Please go down to show your support.

Here is how you can also support the campaign:

  • Sign the petition for Amnesty

  • Follow the campaign on social media Free Ahmed Samir

  • If you have any media/political/NGO contacts, please contact us at