December 9, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Authorities in the United Arab Emirates have denied a lawyer’s request for the release of U.S. citizen Sherif Osman, the Freedom Initiative said on Friday. Osman, who has been detained since November 6 on charges of incitement against state institutions and the government, could face deportation to Egypt where he risks arbitrary detention and torture.

Osman is a dual Egyptian citizen and political dissident who posted YouTube videos from his home in Massachusetts that called for protests in Egypt on November 11, during the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP27). On November 6, two days after arriving in Dubai to visit family, he was approached by plainclothes officers and arrested at a restaurant. According to his fiancée Saija Virta, a dual U.S-Finnish citizen who was with him, the officers did not provide a warrant and gave no reason for his arrest.

Following his arrest, Osman was ordered detained for 15 days, which was renewed in mid-November for another 15 days. According to his family, Emirati authorities said Egypt requested Osman’s extradition on charges of incitement against state institutions and the government. On November 30, the prosecutor asked for further documentation from Egyptian authorities, thereby extending Osman’s detention by 30 days.

Osman was denied legal representation for the first 30 days of his detention and his lawyer has been barred from seeing all relevant case documents, leaving his family in the dark about the legal case against him. On December 6, 2022 — one full month after his initial arrest — Osman was allowed to sign a power of attorney document. After receiving power of attorney, Osman’s lawyer requested his release. On Thursday, Emirati authorities denied the request.

“Because Sherif Othman’s arrest was the result of intelligence coordination between the U.A.E. and Egypt, we believe that these charges are in direct retaliation to his calls for protests in Egypt. Sherif’s continued detention is a testament to a level of transnational repression that has grave implications for global security, the sanctity of free speech on U.S. soil, and the safety of Americans practicing their constitutional rights,” said Amr ElAfifi, Research manager at the Freedom Initiative.

Egypt holds tens of thousands of political prisoners and has extended its crackdown on dissent outside its borders. Osman’s detention came amid over 2,000 arbitrary arrests carried out by Egyptian authorities inside and outside the country in the lead up to and during COP27. Prior to COP27, Turkish authorities arrested Hossam AlGhamry, a presenter at opposition channel El Sharq TV, for supporting the calls for protests in Egypt on November 11. AlGhamry was released shortly thereafter, only to be rearrested. Like Osman, he remains in detention and could face extradition to Egypt.

AlGhamry’s son, Yousuf, was also forcibly disappeared by Egyptian authorities and his whereabouts remain unknown. Abdullah el-Sharif, a political dissident and YouTuber residing outside of Egypt, also announced on November 7 that his 74-year-old father had been detained by Egyptian authorities. Though he was released, two of el-Sharif’s brothers remain in jail.

“The unjust detention of Sherif Osman lays bare the danger individuals face for having the courage to express their peaceful opinion about Egypt’s brutal regime even on U.S. soil. Egypt’s cooperation with another authoritarian government to punish free speech is extremely concerning, as is the clear abuse of international law enforcement mechanisms to target peaceful dissidents. The Biden administration must forcefully speak out against the wrongful detention of Mr. Osman before he is extradited,” said Todd Ruffner, advocacy director at the Freedom Initiative. “

For more information or to set up an interview with Saija Virta, fiancée of Sherif Osman, contact