Egyptian-American political commentator returns to US after release from Dubai

Osman was arrested in the UAE in November due to online criticism he made of the government of Abdel-Fatah El Sisi.

 Women walk past the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, June 11, 2021 (photo credit: REUTERS/CHRISTOPHER PIKE)
Women walk past the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, June 11, 2021
(photo credit: REUTERS/CHRISTOPHER PIKE)

Egyptian-American political commentator Sherif Osman has been released and returned to the US after being arrested in Dubai for criticizing the Egyptian government, the Detained in Dubai organization announced on Friday.

Osman was arrested in the UAE in November due to an extradition request filed by the Egyptian government over online criticism he made of the government of Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah El Sisi. Human rights activists expressed fears that his life would be in danger if he was extradited.

Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, stated "His arrest was appalling. Sherif was detained for social media content he published in the United States, under his constitutionally-protected right to free speech; yet he was arrested by the UAE, an American ally, with the objective of extraditing him to Egypt, another American ally; where he would have been thrown into a prison system notorious for abuse of political dissidents, and where one American had already lost his life in custody."

“We engaged not only the media and American consular officials on Sherif’s behalf, but also with his congressional representatives; urging the intervention of the US government to prevent his deportation and bring Sherif home. Dubai authorities were intent upon his extradition until his case garnered international attention, and we are extremely grateful for the diplomatic efforts the US undertook to secure his freedom once they became aware of Sherif’s plight.”

Stirling noted that the attention of the press likely influenced the decision to release Osman, adding that nearly 400 people have been extradited from the Emirates in the past two years.

 Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi gives a statement on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination, during a European Union - African Union summit, in Brussels, Belgium February 18, 2022. (credit: Johanna Geron/Pool/Reuters) Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi gives a statement on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination, during a European Union - African Union summit, in Brussels, Belgium February 18, 2022. (credit: Johanna Geron/Pool/Reuters)

"Over half of the population of Egypt’s jails are political prisoners; torture and abuse are routine; Sherif’s life would have been in danger had his deportation not been averted,” said Stirling.

Emirati official says UAE 'strictly adheres' to international standards

An Emirati official who declined to be named had said on December 4 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 was made.

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

Reuters contributed to this report.