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Local couple fighting to get nephew released from Egyptian prison

Posted at 11:01 PM, Oct 25, 2020

SYMMES TWP., Ohio — A couple living in Symmes Township has been fighting for more than a year to get their nephew, whom they say has been wrongfully imprisoned, released from prison in Egypt.

This week, the family received some help from U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown who, along with colleagues, drafted and sent a letter to Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, demanding the release of several prisoners.

Ramy Shaath, 48, is a political activist and, according to Amnesty International, is being detained on accusations of helping a terrorist group. The human rights organization said Shaath was peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. Shaath, an Egyptian-Palestinian human rights activist, is being held without due process or any legal representation, his family said.

"He was very suddenly arrested," said Zeinab Schwen, Shaath's aunt. "The police came to his home and took him to prison 15 months ago."

She said his family, across the U.S. and Europe, are desperate to see Shaath released, especially with the added danger of a global pandemic.

"The conditions are very much critical now," said Rick Schwen, Shaath's uncle. "We do not want this to be a death sentence for Ramy or for other detainees."

Brown helped to secure more than 50 fellow members of Congress to sign the letter demanding el-Sisi release not only Shaath, but other imprisoned activists, journalists and human rights activists who Brown said are also being wrongfully imprisoned.

The Schwens and other members of Shaath's family said they hope the letter from political leaders in the U.S. and support from European leaders can help bring more attention to their nephew's situation and, possibly, lead to the release of Shaath and others.

"He is a dear man who has been actively defending others all his life," said Zeinab. "We are here to defend him now."