DESPITE APPEALS FOR his release from the Trump administration, an Egyptian criminal court sentenced U.S. citizen Moustafa Kassem to 15 years in prison on September 8. The sentencing, which human rights advocates said is part of a crackdown on political dissent, crushed his family’s hopes to see their ailing relative freed, and disappointed advocates who hoped the White House could sway the government of Egyptian strongman Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Kassem, who suffers from diabetes, has already served five years in pretrial detention and is now set to spend another 10 years in an Egyptian jail cell, barring a presidential pardon, early release, or deportation to the United States.
“We were so saddened to hear this news. We did not expect it,” Eman Kassem, Moustafa Kassem’s sister, told The Intercept. “He did nothing to deserve that verdict.”
Egyptian prosecutors alleged Moustafa Kassem, an Egyptian-American tried alongside over 700 people, joined the summer 2013 protests at Cairo’s Rabaa Square. The protests came shortly after a military coup that deposed Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi and installed el-Sisi in power.
Prosecutors presented no specific evidence that the 53-year-old Moustafa Kassem was at the square that day.