Philip Rizk Disappearance Gets Major Coverage, But He Remains Missing

By Ryan Beiler 02-10-2009

090210-free-philip-rizkWe at Sojourners continue to be deeply concerned for the safety and well-being of Philip Rizk, who was arrested and detained by Egyptian secret police Friday evening following a rally north of Cairo in support of the people of Gaza. Philip has been a contributor to our God's Politics Blog over the years, and has been a clear and consistent advocate for nonviolent action in support of Palestinian rights.

In college, I was a member of the Amnesty International club. Each week we'd receive the story of a "prisoner of conscience"--someone imprisoned for their beliefs, color, ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation, language, or religion, provided they have neither used nor advocated violence. We wrote letters to government officials on their behalf, asking for fair and prompt trials for all political prisoners, and that they not be tortured or mistreated in any way while in custody. Now somebody I know has disappeared and is in need of that kind of advocacy.

Philip visited our offices here in D.C. a few years back, and we got to learn a bit about his background and how he came to be a passionate advocate for the people of Palestine. Philip is a graduate of Wheaton College and a Christian whose mother is German and whose father is Egyptian. After graduation, he worked for two years in Gaza as a volunteer with a British aid group, and has since been studying for his masters degree at the American University in Cairo. His parents and two sisters also live in Cairo, and as Monday's updates to the Facebook page they've created demonstrate, they too have been harrassed by police since his capture.

Fortunately, Philip's case has receive much needed media attention, including coverage in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, and this report from The Associated Press which is both encouraging and concerning:

Amid mounting criticism by rights groups, an Egyptian security official told The Associated Press that an order for Rizk's release has been given but that it hasn't been implemented yet. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to talk to the media.

He declined to elaborate and it was unclear if his remark indicated Rizk could soon be released. Under Egyptian law, even after a judge orders a release, the police can hold on to a suspect citing further investigation.

Rizk's sister Jeanette said the family received no official word about him by nightfall Monday and were increasingly worried.

Egyptian authorities regularly detain activists deemed critical of the government, holding many of them in undisclosed locations without charge. Rights groups have accused authorities of abusing detainees.

As no new updates have been added to the Facebook page since last night, I encourage you to contact the Egyptian embassy in D.C. at egyptembassydc@yahoo.com (yes, the second greatest recipient of U.S. foreign military aid has a yahoo account) and urge them to release Philip immediately, and demand that he not be mistreated in any way while in custody.

We also urge members of all faith communities to hold Philip, his family, and the Palestinian people whose cause he has so sacrificially championed, in their prayers.

Ryan Rodrick Beiler is the Web Editor for Sojourners.

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