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Saturday, 30 January 2016

Free Egyptian Union Activist Dr Taher Mokhtar

The Egypt Police State is one of the most vicious states in the world.  Torture is normal for political activists who are arrested and many activists simply ‘disappear’.  It is a state where hundreds of people are sentenced to death at the same time in what is a mockery of the idea of a fair trial.

A die-in outside Downing Street on occasion of visit by Egyptian dictator Sisi

Demonstrations on occasion of visit of Egyptian tyrant
It was no wonder that David Cameron, friend as he is of every tyrant and bloody dictator, welcomed Sisi to this country on November 4th and 5th.  Egypt is a close ally of both Israel and the United States.  After Israel it receives the largest chunk of US military aid because it is seen as a lynchpin of western imperialist interests in the Middle East.  When the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi was overthrown by Sisi, the United States deliberately refused to call it a coup d’etat in order to continue the military aid.

The Israeli Prime Minister and State was likewise delighted at the coup by Sisi.  This has been repaid in a tightening of the siege of Gaza.  Egypt has flooded the tunnels from Rafah to Gaza thus doing Israel’s dirty work for it.  All of this has been met with approval by the Quisling Palestinian Authority under Abbas.  Fateh is in close alliance with Sisi, as it was with his predecessor Hosni Mubarak.

The arrest of Dr Taher Mokhtar, a trade union activist, comes therefore as no surprise.  It is important that activists and socialists in the West build a campaign calling for his unconditional release from prison.

Tony Greenstein

Doctors’ union activist Taher Mokhtar charged following dawn raid


Dr Taher Mokhtar (centre, in brown jacket) and colleagues during the doctors’ strike, January 2014
A leading activist in the Egyptian Doctors’ Union was snatched from his home in a dawn raid on 14 January. Dr Taher Mokhtar, a member of the union’s Rights and Freedoms Committee was arrested along with Ahmed Hassan and Hossam al-Din al-Hamady and taken to Abdin police in Cairo for interrogation by National Security officers. Their detention was renewed for four days on 15 January in order to give prosecutors more time to interrogate them on charges of “possessing publications calling for the overthrow of the regime”.

Taher is a well-known health activist and one of the organisers of the doctors’ strikes of 2011-2014. The revolution of 2011 sparked a wave of organising in public hospitals across Egypt, with doctors leading the fight to win increased funding for public health care and better conditions for health workers through a series of major strikes. Taher was elected onto the Higher Strike Committee for the 2012 and 2014 national strikes, which saw thousands of doctors take partial action to demand the implementation of a national pay scale and a rise in the health budget.

He has also played a key role in campaigns to win justice for victims of police violence, including Khaled Said, the young man whose murder in an Alexandrian internet cafe in 2010 shocked Egypt. Taher was badly beaten by the police in December 2013 who attacked a small, peaceful protest calling for justice for Khaled Said outside the court hearing against his killers. When Taher’s friend and fellow activist, lawyer and Revolutionary Socialist Mahienour el-Masry was handed a jail sentence for taking part in the protest and he has campaigned tirelessly for her release. Mahienour was just one of the many political activists Taher has fought to free, however. He has spoken out against the repression of opposition across the political spectrum, condemning the use of military trials, torture and forced disappearances by Sisi’s military regime as it attempts to stifle all dissent.

A letter from Mahienour el-Masry on the fifth anniversary of the revolution

We were alarmed to hear that our colleague, Dr Taher Mokhtar, a member of the Rights and Freedoms Committee of the Egyptian Doctors Union, was arrested in a dawn raid on his home on 14 January 2016. Taher has played a key role in defending doctors’ and patients’ rights in Egypt, both as a leading activist with the Doctors’ Union and as a tireless campaigner for Egypt’s public health service. He is also an outspoken critic of the current military regime who has taken a courageous public stand in solidarity with victims of state repression across the political spectrum.
We call for Taher’s immediate release and for any charges or case in preparation against him and others arrested with him to be dropped.

We further call on the Egyptian government, military and security services to end the prosecution of opponents of the current regime for the peaceful exercise of their democratic rights, to release all those detained without a fair trial and to end the practice of forced disappearances.
Signatures will be published online and copies sent to the Egyptian embassy in London and the Ministry of the Interior in Cairo

Statement coordinated by Egypt Solidarity Initiative - go to www.egyptsolidarityinitiative.org

Dr Yorgos Tsironis, member of the General Council, Federation of Hospital Doctors Unions, Greece
Ron Singer, Chair Doctors' Section UNITE the union, UK
Lot van Baaren, lid Algemeen Bestuur FNV, kaderlid zorg en welzijn. (General Board FNV union federation) The Netherlands
Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya, British Medical Association Junior Doctors’ committee, UK
Dr Yannis Gourtsoyannis, British Medical Association Junior Doctors’ committee, UK
Danielle Tiplady, Student nurses' bursary campaign organiser, UK
John Robson MD FRCGP GP and Reader Queen Mary University of London, UK
Chris Griffiths, Professor of Primary Care, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, QMUL, UK
Dr Peadar O’Grady, Consultant Child Psychiatrist, Dublin, Ireland

(and over 50 other health workers and trade unionists) - full list online at 

Doctors delegation takes protest letter to Egypt embassy

L-R, Dr Ron Singer, Dr Mona Ahmed and Dr Kambiz Boomla outside the Egyptian embassy in London
Dr Ron Singer, Chair of the Medical Practitioners’ Union, Dr Mona Kamal Ahmed and Dr Kambiz Boomla delivered letter signed by over 200 doctors, nurses, academics and trade unionists to the Egyptian embassy in London yesterday in protest at the detention of Dr Taher Mokhtar, an activist within the Egyptian Doctors’ Union and a campaigner for the rights of political prisoners. Medical practitioners from the UK, USA, the Netherlands, Greece and Ireland are among the signatories to the letter, which calls of Mokhtar’s immediate release, following his arrest on 14 January. According to his lawyers, Mokhtar is facing charges related to possessing leaflets opposing the current military regime.

“Taher has played a key role in defending doctors’ and patients’ rights in Egypt, both as a leading activist with the Doctors’ Union and as a tireless campaigner for Egypt’s public health service,” notes the statement. “He is also an outspoken critic of the current military regime who has taken a courageous public stand in solidarity with victims of state repression across the political spectrum.”

Embassy staff appeared confused by the delivery of the statement, at one point accepting the envelope addressed to the Ambassador before then returning it saying they refused to accept a delivery in person and asked for it to be sent in the post.

Leaders of the BMA’s Junior Doctors’ strike, including Dr Yannis Gourtsoyannis and Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya are backing the statement, alongside Danielle Tiplady of the student nurses’ NHS bursary campaign.

Dr Goursoyannis said:

“as a fellow trade unionist and as a member of executive committee of the BMA I am deeply concerned by the detention of Dr Taher Moktar and his colleagues. I would like to add my name to the petition calling for the immediate release of Dr Taher Mokhtar and his colleagues. Political activism is not a crime.”

Dr Singer added:

“I have signed this letter about the detention of Dr Taher Mokhtar because I believe that everyone has the right to speak out, particularly when they speak out on behalf of others, particularly as a doctor whose motives are clearly directed towards the well being of patients and of other doctors.  Although I have signed in a personal capacity I am confident that members of my Union  -Doctors in Unite-MPU, would agree with my supporting Dr Mokhtar as a colleague, a trade unionist and most importantly as a brave human being.”

Dr Kambiz Boomla, Senior Clinical Lecturer Queen Mary University of London added:

“Any doctor anywhere in the world fighting for a better health service, peace, freedom and social justice deserves our support. I support Dr Taher Mokhtar and demand his release.”

South London-based forensic psychiatrist Dr Mona Kamal Ahmed highlighted the connection with the wider crackdown on protests in Egypt, which human rights activists say has intensified in the run-up to the anniversary of the 2011 uprising:

“As a fellow doctor and Egyptian citizen I owe a debt of gratitude to Taher Mokhtar- for his campaigns to improve public health care in Egypt and to improve conditions for health workers, and particularly for his courage in seeking justice for victims of police violence.

I call for his release and also call for an end to the repressive practice of forced disappearances and military trials by Al-Sisi’s regime. These brutal practices, which exist to silence legitimate  criticism and dissent, are effectively erasing human rights gains made during the 2011 uprisings and must be opposed.”

Mokhtar is one of a number of doctors currently detained in Egypt for alleged political offences. The World Medical Association issued a statement on 18 January calling for the release of vascular surgeon Dr Ahmed Said who was jailed for two years recently for allegedly “assembling without a permit”. WMA President Sir Michael Marmot said in a letter to the Egyptian Minister of Justice:

“According to our sources, Dr. Ahmed Said was tortured on the day of his arrest while interrogating him at Abdeen Police Station Prison complex, just south of Cairo. He is in an overcrowded cell and sleeps on a concrete floor without a blanket or warm clothing during what is the coldest time of the year in Egypt.”

Following his arrest, Mokhtar was also held in Abdeen Police Station. Colleagues in the Egyptian Doctors’ Union believe that he was targeted for arrest because of his work campaigning for detainees’ access to treatment. Dr Mona Mina, a leading figure in the Doctors’ Union stated:

“The real “crime” which Taher is being punished for is his participation in the union’s efforts to ensure prisoners have access to healthcare.”

What you can do:
  • Signatures are still being collected for the statement and further names will be handed to the embassy at a later date. Add your name online here

“We are still filled with hope”: Mahienour writes on the fifth anniversary of the revolution


Dozens of doctors, trade unionists and academics from Greece, the UK, the Netherlands, Ireland and the USA have launched an international statement calling for the release of Egyptian doctors’ union activist Dr Taher Mokhtar following his arrest on 14 January in a dawn raid on his home. Add your name to the statement online here

Download a printable version of the statement here, and a pdf of the poster here.

Read more on the background to this story here

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