Shady Habash was an Egyptian photographer and filmmaker who died in May 2020 in Tora Prison in Egypt. Shady was held for over two years in unlawful pre-trial detention for simply being associated with a music video of Ramy Essam. His violent arrest was followed by three days of torture and 800 days of confinement in a situation of particular vulnerability in one of Egypt’s most notorious prisons for their poor healthcare and inadequate sanitation. In his last letter from October 2019, Shady expressed his struggle and called for support: “I need your support, to not die.” The circumstances of his death are unclear although Egypt’s public prosecutor reported he had died after mistakenly ingesting hand sanitizer distrubted in prison to prevent COVID-19. When an individual dies in state custody, as in the case at hand, there is a presumption of state responsibility. AGL believes Shady’s death has been caused by the failure of prison authorities to ensure Shady with timely access to a doctor and suitable health. On 12 May 2020 Avant-Garde Lawyers representing artist Ramy Essam have submitted Shady Habash’s case to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, Agnès Callamard. The submission is calling Ms. Callamard to intercede with the Egyptian authorities in order to have the circumstances and causes of Shady Habash’s tragic death in custody fully investigated and to ensure that those responsible for it are promptly brought to justice.
- International representation: AGL
- Liaison: Ramy Essam
- Communication: Sanni Kahilainen
- Translators: Kelsey Waxman and Sana Sekkarie
Ramy Essam is an Egyptian musician who received the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent (2019). He is best known for his performance in Tahrir Square in Cairo during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. His song Irhal, in which then Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was urged to resign is referred to as the anthem of the revolution and was selected in 2011 by Time Out as the third-most world-changing song of all time. As a result of his music and activism, on 9 March 2011 Ramy was arrested and held in custody for four hours, during which time he was beaten and tortured. His songs were banned in Egypt, he was threated on national TV by high-level public officials and forbidden to perform public shows. In 2014 Ramy arrived in Sweden seeking a better and freer environment to create and perform his music. In 2018 Avant-Garde Lawyers succeeded in detangling a complex immigration issue regarding his legal status in Sweden and obtained a favorable decision from the Swedish Migration Agency.
- Legal strategy and case management: AGL
- Liaison : Val Denn (CEO Val Denn Agency)
- Local immigration lawyer: Nicklas Dahlbeck (Stockholms Advokatbyrå)
- Partner organization: Artistic Freedom Initiative (AFI)
Special thank you to Sanjay Sethi (Sethi and Mazaheri, LLC) and Mattew Covey (CoveyLaw).
On 6 June 2018, Memorial Day in South Korea, Korean artist Taeyong Jeong aka HIDEYES, spray-painted remnants of the Berlin Wall at Berlin Square in Seoul. He did so to celebrate the April 2018 inter-Korean Summit, a first step towards reconciliation between North and South Korea in eleven years. On 27 August 2018, Mr. Jeong was charged with destruction of public goods, under Article 141 of the Korean Penal Code. A civil lawsuit was equally lodged against him. AGL argues for the first time in a court of law that graffiti is a form of social and political commentary deserving of protection under Korean constitutional law, and international human rights law.
- Legal strategy and international representation: AGL
- Case coordinator: Prof. Kyung-Sin Park
- Criminal defense: Hong-Seok Yang (lead lawyer); Teri Kang (second lawyer), Yigong Law
- Civil litigation attorney: Teri Kang
- Written submissions: Andra Matei
- Expert testimonies: Kyoungmi Oh, Don Karl, Katia Hermann
- Translators: Hyun-soo Lim, Kay Lee
- Partner organisation: PEN America, Artists at Risk Connection (ARC)
- Special thank you to Dr. Klaus Lederer, Senator for Culture and Europe in Berlin who kindly agreed to submit an expert opinion in favor of the defendant before the Court in Seoul and to Veit Rieber from the Senate Department for Culture and Europe for their wisdom and unfaltering support for this case.
Sajad Sepehri is an Iranian musician, professional singer and poet living in exile in Albania. Due to his uncertain and precarious legal status in Albania he cannot enjoy basic human rights such as the right to travel, to right to gain from his artistic activity, or to freely create and perform his music. The legal issues posed by Sajad’s case are manifold and it took a team of very committed individuals to work through the complexities of his right to exit Abania and to emigrate to the Netherlands.
Read Sajad’s biography here.
More info on Sajad’s website.
- Legal Strategy: AGL
- Case Coordinator: Ali Reza Kazemi (Director, Institute for Social Sciences and Humanities)
- Local immigration lawyer: Thomas van Houwelingen (Everaert Advocaten)
- Partner organisation: Artistic Freedom Initiative
Special thank you to: ProBono Connect, VU University Amsterdam, Erinda Meli ( Albanian Ministry of Justice), Claudia Bonamini ( Jesuit Refugee Service), and Marieke van Eik (Oliveira Prakken law firm).
Galal is the author of books Chairs Factory (Masna’a El Karasy) published in 2015 and Colorful Prison (Segn Bel Alwan), 2017. He has written many lyrics for the singer Ramy Essam – important figure of the 2011 Revolution movement in Egypt – among them one of his biggest hits Segn Bel Alwan. Most recently they collaborated on the song Balaha. The song criticises the current state of the economy and levels of corruption in Egypt. Two days after the release of Balaha, on February 28th, Egyptian Minister of Culture Enas Abdel Dayem publicly denounced El-Bahairy on live television, specifically noting the book of poetry, The Finest Women on Earth. Three days later, on March 3rd, El-Behairy was arrested at Cairo airport and his family did not know of his whereabouts for a full week until he appeared before the High State Security Prosecution. He exhibited signs of severe beating and torture. The Prosecution ordered him to undergo a forensic medical examination, however, the findings of the examination have yet to be shared with either the public or his lawyers. AGL has started an urgent appeal procedure before the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention among other actions at international level. Read the communication here:
Read more about Galal’s case here:
- Legal strategy and international representation: AGL
- Liaison: Sanni Kahilainen and Ramy Essam
- Criminal defense: Mokhtar Mounir
- Partner organisation: Perpetuum Mobile
Special thank you to: UN Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights, Karima Bennoune for her continuous support, and to Artists-at-Risk Connection for their tireless work on this case.
In addition to his politically and socially engaged music, Ferhat has also experienced threats and persecution for his refusal to perform military service. Ferhat claims to be a conscientious objector and refuses to carry a weapon on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.
Mr. Temel’s asylum claim was initially rejected by the French authorities but thanks to avant-garde lawyer Umit Killinc’s perseverance a final decision of the French Asylum Court (CNDA) from 3 October has finally granted Ferhat the refugee status.
- Legal strategy: AGL
- Immigration lawyer: Umit Kilinç