Egypt: Activist Abdelrahman ‘Moka’ Tarek is free


Abdelrahman ‘Moka’ Tarek

Abdelrahman ‘Moka’ Tarek

Egyptian pro-democracy activist and blogger Abdelrahman ‘Moka’ Tarek has been released from prison. Moka works with the Al-Nedal Centre for Rights and Freedoms to defend freedom of expression and prisoner’s rights in Egypt. He won Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Award for Campaigning in 2021. In particular, the board of judges noted his commitment to protecting freedom of expression and his courage despite overwhelming adversity.

Moka has experienced persistent state harassment, arbitrary detentions, and abuse over the last decade. He was first detained in 2013 when he was involved in protests against military trials for civilians which were organised in front of the Egyptian Senate. He was released on probation in October 2018, but was forcibly disappeared a year later in September 2019. He was eventually placed in pre-trial detention and accused of “joining a terrorist group, spreading false news, and misusing social media”.

On two separate occasions, courts ordered the release of Moka. However, the release orders were blocked by the addition of new cases. Moka was prevented from communicating with his family and accessing legal counsel. He was subjected to poor detention conditions, torture, and abuse, including the use of electric shocks and prolonged solitary confinement. In 2021, Moka was transferred to the prison hospital after experiencing health complications due to a 53-day long hunger strike in protest of the poor conditions.

Reacting to his release, Ruth Smeeth, CEO of Index on Censorship said: “I am delighted that Moka has finally been released. We stand united with Moka and his detention was a travesty of justice. Today our thoughts are with him and his family who must be completely relieved.”

Tarek’s release comes after the reactivation of the Presidential Pardons Committee by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the subsequent appeal from eight Egyptian human rights groups for authorities to provide more transparency and clarity into review processes.

While this may indicate a shift towards more openness and transparency, Egyptian activists still face severe censorship and intimidation. Information received by Amnesty International suggests that those released will be monitored by Egypt’s National Security Agency, and that they may be threatened with re-arrest if they engage in activism.

A total of 986 inmates received a presidential pardon in May 2022 during the Eid al-Fitr celebrations, according to a statement released by the Egyptian Ministry of Interior. Egypt is estimated to have a prison population of more than 119,000, 31% of which are held on remand.


Call for the immediate and unconditional release of Egyptian human rights defender Abdelrahman ‘Moka’ Tarek


Abdelrahman ‘Moka’ Tarek

Abdelrahman ‘Moka’ Tarek

Abdelrahman Tarek (widely known as Moka) is a human rights defender working with Al-Nedal Centre for Rights and Freedoms. His work includes defending free expression in Egypt and prisoners’ rights, especially in cases of forced disappearances. On 12 September 2021, Moka was awarded Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Award in recognition of his campaigning work. The award celebrates individuals or groups who have had a significant impact fighting censorship anywhere in the world.

Moka was first arrested on 26 November 2013 in relation to the “Shura Council” case, when a number of activists organized a protest against military trials for civilians in front of the Egyptian Senate (Shura Council) and were subsequently arrested.

On 11 June 2014, he was sentenced to three years in prison and three years of police probation. He was held in Tora El Mazraa Prison; during his detention, he was frequently subjected to torture, as a result of which he still suffers psychologically. After his release in October 2018, he began to serve his three-year probationary period, during which he had to spend 12 hours a day at the Qasr Al Nil Police Station in Cairo. On 10 September 2019, Moka was forcibly disappeared during his daily probation session at Qasr Al Nil Police Station. A day later, he re-appeared at the office of the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP), where he was interrogated in Case No. 1331 of 2019. He was accused of “joining a terrorist group, spreading false news, and misusing social media” by the prosecutor during the interrogation, and was ordered into pre-trial detention.

On 10 March 2020, a court ordered his release on probationary measures, which included reporting to a police station every few days. He was, however, never released. Instead, he was forcibly disappeared for 50 days. On 30 April 2020, the SSSP ordered Moka into pre-trial detention on new  charges of “joining a terrorist group, spreading false news, and misusing social media” – the same accusations he faced in the previous case.

On 22 September 2020, a court ordered the release of Moka. However, once again, the release order was never implemented. On 3 December 2020, after being held arbitrarily for over 70 days, the SSSP interrogated Moka for “establishment and funding of a terrorist organisation.” On 3 December 2020, he was ordered into pretrial detention in that case. He started a hunger strike to protest the Prosecutor’s decision.

In mid-January 2021, Moka was transferred to Tora Prison, which is known for its inhumane detention conditions, such as lack of clean water, poor ventilation, and overcrowding. On 17 January 2021, he was hospitalised at Tora Prison Hospital for the first time, due to his deteriorating health. He had to be hospitalised several times afterward. On 3 February 2021, he ended his hunger strike.

Since Moka was detained in September 2019, two consecutive orders for his release have been preempted by the addition of new cases, allowing authorities to evade the two-year legal limit on pre-trial detention in Egypt.

In the first week of August 2021, Moka attempted suicide after he was denied a family visit. As punishment, Moka was placed in a disciplinary cell for 24 hours.

Accepting the award on behalf of Moka, one of his family members said: “I am sure that when Moka hears that he won this award he will be extremely happy and he will spend a happy night but when he wakes up the next day, he will be feeling disappointed and frustrated that he will be spending another day in prison.”

Moka is among the thousands of people arbitrarily detained in Egypt, including human rights defenders, journalists, politicians, lawyers, and social media influencers. They remain in prolonged detention solely for exercising and defending fundamental human rights.

“Today I tried to be Moka’s voice, and I want each of you to be his voice, until he comes out of prison alive,” his family member said. “Freedom for Moka and all detainees.”

We, the undersigned organisations, call on the Egyptian government to immediately and unconditionally release Abdulrahaman Tarek.



Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)

FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Freedom House

Index on Censorship

International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) 

MENA Rights Group

The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms

The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) 

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Sharing the stories that need to be told

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”106069″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes”][vc_column_text]Afghanistan. Hong Kong. Belarus.

Every day we’ve learned of a new atrocity. A new act of repression. A new effort to silence. A new law to intimidate.

The news has been awful. There are too many heartbreaking stories, too many images of people being tortured or arrested. Too many things to be angry about. But the reality is, thankfully, as painful as these stories are. They are in the news. They are being covered. And the world knows what is happening – daylight is truly trying to act as a disinfectant.

So as much as I worry about the horrendous restrictions to free expression that we see on the news and the people behind the headlines, every night I find myself fretting about who we’re not reporting on. Who is missing? What other regimes should we be focusing on. Whose story needs to be told. And most importantly how can we help.

In part, the annual Index Freedom of Expression awards is our answer to that question. Shining a light on activists, campaigners, artists, writers and journalists who are being targeted by repressive regimes. Making sure that some of the bravest most inspirational people in the fight for the right to global free expression have their stories told. This weekend we will be announcing our winners. But it’s not just about our winners, it’s about every nominee from Brazil to Nicaragua, from Egypt to Russia. Their stories, their fights deserve the world’s attention. And on Sunday evening we get to share their stories.

So over the weekend please watch our social media for the coverage. But before we get there I want to thank this year’s sponsors, Facebook, Edwardian Hotels, the Times and Sunday Times, Microsoft and Sage publications for enabling us to shine a spotlight on repressive regimes that don’t always dominate the news.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][three_column_post title=”You may also want to read” category_id=”41669″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Why the Freedom of Expression Awards matter


Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, a 2020 Freedom of Expression Awards winner

This week we were interviewing for a new member of the team to help support our work on the Freedom of Expression awards. The joy of interviewing for a new role is that it makes you reflect on what you do and why, even as you’re speaking to the candidates. As I was outlining the importance of the awards, I was reminded of why they are so incredibly important and not just for the winners, but also for the team. The fact is they give us hope, we get to show real solidarity with people who are on the frontline, people who every day are demanding their rights and protections under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Those people shortlisted for an award are typically unknown outside their countries, their stories untold. They have been jailed for campaigning for free speech. Hounded for using their talents as artists and writers to explore people’s realities under totalitarian regimes. Threatened for being journalists exposing corruption and repression at a national level. They are also just people who have found themselves in horrendous situations which they are determined to help fix.

Our award-winners and all of those nominated are extraordinary. They are inspirational. And they honestly keep the team going when day in and day out we are exposed to some of the horrors of what people are facing in too many places around the world, from Myanmar to Kashmir, from Afghanistan to Hong Kong, from Belarus to Xinjiang, from Komsomolsk-on-Amur to Greece.

It can be emotionally exhausting just trying to keep on top of what is happening in too many countries by too many authoritarian leaders. Soul-destroying to say today we have to focus on Egypt rather than Iran because we don’t have enough resource. The guilt that we aren’t doing enough or that we aren’t providing enough support or that the world has moved on and we can’t get traction for someone’s story. The world can just feel too depressing.

The Index team is extraordinary and resilient – but we all need a little hope.

And that’s what our awards do – they provide hope. The remind us of the struggles that people are prepared to fight and allow us to celebrate those people are fighting the good fight – so they know they are not alone, and that people genuinely care what happens to them.

Our award nominees and the eventual winners are extraordinary individuals but for the team at Index they embody our mission – to ensure that we are a Voice for the Persecuted. They represent the best of us, and we honour and support them not just because of who they are and what they have done – but because of what they represent. Bravery, resilience and determination for a better world.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][three_column_post title=”You may also want to read” category_id=”41669″][/vc_column][/vc_row]