Banbury comprehensive students adopt jailed Egyptian human rights lawyer's case with Amnesty International

A group of students from North Oxfordshire Academy (NOA) Banbury have been involved in a letter writing campaign to support an Egyptian human rights lawyer who has been jailed for two years without charge.

By Roseanne Edwards
Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 2:57 pm
Updated Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 3:08 pm
Flavius Covaci and some of his fellow Amnesty International supporters. The students, from North Oxfordshire Academy, have taken part in a postcard campaign to support Mohammed Baker

The students have allied themselves with Amnesty International and chose the case of Mohamed Baker as their focus for activity over the last year. They have sent postcards to the lawyer, who has defended those whose human rights have been violated, and written to Egypt's president in a bid add pressure to achieve Baker's release.

Spokesman for the students, year-13 pupil Flavius Covaci told the Banbury Guardian: "We had a visit from an Amnesty International speaker. We had done this twice before but last year it felt different and we wanted to get involve in their global campaigning.

"We are a team of 15 diversity ambassadors in the school, celebrating different backgrounds and experiences, and Amnesty International does a lot of good global work. We liked the fact that we had ten stories to choose from and we felt this one was very special. People around the country are involved in cases from all over the world," he said.

Sign up to our daily Banbury Guardian Today newsletter

"In 2020 Amnesty supporters sent 4.6m cards, letters or some form of social media engagement. Mohamed Baker is a human rights lawyer in Egypt defending people who are marginalised. Now he's in a position where he needs to be defended.

"In 2019 he went to defend a friend and was accused of funding terrorist activity. He has been imprisoned ever since. He wasn't allowed out even when his father was dying," said Flavius.

"We all got together, all very new to the team and very passionate to get involved, and this is our first project. We picked the person we wanted to support together and we got help in.

"We tried to make it a school-wide thing and we had a lot of cards printed. During tutorials we got students involved, had a virtual assembly on it and I voiced a powerpoint presentation introducing others to the campaign and asking for their messages of positivity. Mohamed Baker loves cats and students picked up on this and used this in some of their messages.

Mohammed Baker, a human rights lawyer, who has been locked up without charge for two years

"It also stood out to many that he liked football and motorbiking and that gave a commonality - a human connection. Baker now lives in a fetid cell and we want to do what we can to get him released," he said.

Amnesty International said: "Mohamed Baker is a brave human rights lawyer who defends people whose human rights were violated. In September 2019, he went to the Supreme State Security Prosecution’s (SSSP) office to defend his friend – prominent activist unjustly arrested, Alaa Abdel Fattah. But in a cruel twist of fate, he was arrested by the authorities.

"Baker has spent over two years in detention without being charged or put on trial. Then authorities referred him to trial by an emergency court on 'false news' charges but it is clear that he is being punished because of his human rights work. He is a human rights lawyer and director of Adalah Center for Rights and Freedom focusing on abuses in the criminal justice system, the right to education and students’ rights.

"Baker is being held in a maximum-security prison in cruel and inhuman conditions, denied access to adequate healthcare and deprived of a bed or mattress, hot water, outdoor exercise and even family photos. His detention comes amid an ongoing crackdown on human rights defenders in Egypt. The authorities are seeking to severely constrain independent human rights work through the imposition of draconian legislation and the persecution of independent human rights workers. Despite everything he has gone through, Baker is hopeful."

In their letter to the President of Egypt, the NOA students said: "Dear President, As a human rights lawyer, Mohamed Baker helps the people who need him most – those who have been marginalised and jailed unfairly. Now Baker, himself, has been locked up unjustly. Falsely accused of terrorism, Baker was never put on trial. Instead, he was thrown in jail where prison authorities are confining him to his cell round the clock and cruelly refusing him a bed, mattress, books, newspapers – even family photos.

"Defending people’s freedoms should not cost him his own. We, as students of North Oxfordshire Academy and champions of freedom, ask that you release Mohamed Baker immediately and unconditionally, and close all investigations into the bogus accusations made against him."

Amnesty's involvement with the NOA students has included giving them information about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, drawn up at the end of World War II and adopted around the world. The declaration includes 30 articles that should be afforded to all individuals, from the right to freedom from slavery and torture to the right to freedom of expression, to social security and the right to work for a fair wage.

A full list of the articles under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is here.