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Trans activist released after 120 days in solitary confinement in male prison

Emma Powys Maurice July 16, 2019
picture of trans woman and LGBT activist Malak al-Kashef, feared held in a men's prison in Egypt, facing torture risk.

LGBT+ activist and transgender woman Malak Al-Kashef has now been released from prison. (Supplied)

A 19-year-old transgender woman who spent four months in solitary confinement in an all-male prison was released on Monday (July 15) after a social media campaign calling for her freedom.

Malak Al-Kashef, an Egyptian LGBT+ rights defender, was arrested on accusations of joining a “terrorist” group and using social media with the aim of disrupting public order.

The charges relate to her participation in anti-government protests triggered by a Cairo train explosion. Al-Kashef denounced the State’s approach to the accident, which killed 25 people, and called for those responsible to be held to account.

She was seized by police in the early hours of March 6 after being lured to her mother’s house in an apparent ‘sting operation’. Following her arrest she was detained for three days in an undisclosed location without access to legal counsel.

It was later revealed Al-Kashef was being held in an all-male prison, where The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) say she was sexually assaulted by a guard and subjected to a forced anal examination. In a statement the ECRF condemned the “inhuman and degrading treatment” and called it a form of “torture.”

Campaigners say Al-Kashef faced a “severe risk of mistreatment”

Al-Kashef’s case attracted significant attention on social media, with many concerned that her detainment in a male prison would put her at risk of further abuse. Front Line Defenders, a Dublin-based human rights group, also pushed for her release.

Activists campaigning for Malak Al-Kashef’s release (News Central)

“We are deeply concerned about the well-being of the activist Malak Al-Kashef,” said Neela Ghoshal, senior LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “As a transgender woman, Al-Kashef faces a severe risk of mistreatment at the hands of Egyptian law enforcement and potentially by other prisoners too.

“If, as reports suggest, Al-Kashef is being detained for exercising her right to call for peaceful protests, the Egyptian security forces should immediately release her, and should end their harassment and arbitrary detention of activists.”

In spite of this, the State Security Prosecution in Egypt extended Al-Kashef’s pre-trial detention period seven times and rejected most requests for visits made by the defender’s lawyer and family.

But on July 15 Egyptian authorities appear to have bowed under pressure from Al-Kashef’s supporters when she was finally released after more than 120 days of solitary confinement. The charges against her are still pending.

Al-Kashef has yet to make a comment, but a photo of her smiling after her release was posted on Twitter.

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