The Freedom Initiative and Pretrial Rights International Commemorate the One Year Anniversary of the Death of Moustafa Kassem
The Freedom Initiative (Fi) and Pretrial Rights International (PRI) solemnly commemorate the year anniversary of the death of Moustafa Kassem today. To honor Moustafa’s legacy, Fi has unveiled its new logo featuring his silhouette. Moustafa, a U.S. citizen on behalf of whom Fi began its first case advocacy efforts in 2015, died of medical neglect in Egypt’s Tora prison on January 13, 2020. Detained in 2013 simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Fi and PRI advocated for Moustafa’s release tirelessly until his untimely death; Moustafa and Fi’s founder Mohamed Soltan were inmates together in Tora prison, where the two developed a personal relationship that prompted Soltan to continue his advocacy efforts through the establishment of the Freedom Initiative.
Born on February 11, 1965, Moustafa grew up in Cairo, Egypt. He later immigrated to the United States, became a naturalized citizen, and settled in the greater New York area. During a visit to Egypt, Moustafa was detained near Rabaa Square as he ran errands on August 14, 2013. He remained in pretrial detention for over five years before being convicted and sentenced to a fifteen-year prison-term as part of a mass trial with more than 700 other defendants; no personalized evidence was ever presented against him.
To protest his conviction, Moustafa began a liquid-only hunger strike. Despite his diabetes and a worsening heart condition, prison officials limited his access to necessary medications and medical care for the entirety of his detention. After refusing liquids for the last portion of his strike, Moustafa passed away in custody.
Moustafa was more than just an unlucky stranger. He was a resilient and courageous human being, a father, and a friend, and is survived by his wife, two young children, and a large and loving extended family.
Moustafa’s case had garnered attention from the highest levels in the United States government, and his death prompted outcry across party lines. Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Schenker described Moustafa’s passing as “needless, tragic, and avoidable.” While lawmakers and civil society called for accountability for his death, no Egyptian official has been held responsible and U.S.-Egyptian relations have continued as usual.
To ensure justice for Moustafa, a swift recalibration of U.S.-Egypt bilateral relations must prioritize accountability and respect for basic human rights. On this somber occasion, Fi reiterates its calls for justice, a zero-tolerance policy on human rights violations, and freedom for the wrongfully imprisoned.
Read more from Fi’s founder: I was in prison with Mustafa Kassem: his death is a tragedy for Egypt – and the US.
Support Moustafa’s family through the GoFundMe campaign spearheaded by Moustafa’s lawyer, Praveen Madhiraju, of Pretrial Rights International.
Watch FI’s video commemorating Moustafa’s death.