US citizen held in UAE after criticizing Egypt president released, says fiancée

Osman was held after posting a YouTube video in which he criticized President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and called for peaceful protests on Nov. 11.

EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT Abdel Fattah al-Sisi attends a ceremony in Ismailia, Egypt, in 2019 (photo credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH / REUTERS)
EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT Abdel Fattah al-Sisi attends a ceremony in Ismailia, Egypt, in 2019
(photo credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH / REUTERS)

An Egyptian-American national, detained in the United Arab Emirates after criticizing Egyptian president and calling for protests ahead of a climate meet there, has been released from prison, his fiancée said on Friday.

The Emirati government did not respond to a request for comment on the release of Sherif Osman, who was arrested on Nov. 6 and was feared to be extradited to Egypt, a close ally of the UAE.

An Emirati official who declined to be named had said on Dec.4 said that authorities were working to secure "requisite legal documentation required in preparing the extradition file," but did not specify to which country or if a request for was made.

He was held after posting a YouTube video in which he criticized President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and called for peaceful protests on Nov. 11 when US President Joe Biden was attending the COP27 conference in Sharm El Sheikh.

Osman's fiancée, Saija Virta, told Reuters he was released on Thursday and will remain in Dubai until the case is concluded.

 A climate activist holds a placard during a protest demanding climate justice and human rights at the Sharm El-Sheikh International Convention Centre, during the COP27 climate summit, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, November 15, 2022.  (credit: REUTERS/MOHAMED ABD EL GHANY) A climate activist holds a placard during a protest demanding climate justice and human rights at the Sharm El-Sheikh International Convention Centre, during the COP27 climate summit, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, November 15, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/MOHAMED ABD EL GHANY)

"I was finally able to have a video call with Sherif and he looked healthy and well," Virta said, adding that he was treated well in prison. "Hopefully we can bring him home to the US soon."

Osman's family members and activists fear that he would be extradited to Egypt where rights groups say tens of thousands of people have been detained in a crackdown on political dissent since Sisi took power in 2014.

The UAE official said the Gulf state "strictly adheres to all internationally accepted standards" in detention cases including regular consular access and legal council.