February 12, 2009
Update: Philip Rizk Describes His Detainment
Newly-freed Philip Rizk, a friend of CT held without charge in Egypt for four days, gave a press conference Thursday at his home in Maadi (a Cairo suburb) before kindly asking reporters to leave so he could celebrate his 27th birthday with friends. He later offered this statement.
Our correspondent said Rizk was calm and composed as he described his detainment.
Rizk said he was held in solitude for four days, suffering no physical abuse but enduring "all sorts of tortuous ways" of interrogation day and night while blindfolded - often handcuffed and made to stand when his answers failed to please.
Rizk said he was also exposed to the apparent sounds of others being tortured, likely as an intimidation tactic. His interrogator told him: "Everything that is in your head we want to take it out."
Rizk said he was urged to "confess" but never told what the charges against him were. He was accused of such contradictory actions as dealing weapons to Hamas, spying for Israel, and being an evangelist. Said Rizk, in relation to his work in Gaza with the Anglican-based Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation from 2005 to 2007:
"They accused me of being an evangelist. They said anyone working in a non-Christian country with a Christian organization must be an evangelist, and I asked them straight out, ?So, as a Christian, I can't help my neighbor if he's Muslim if I'm working for a Christian organization?' And they said, ?No!'"
Rizk said interrogators told him if he were to "continue on this track" that he would be "visiting them quite often." His personal email accounts were compromised. His blog, Tabula Gaza, written since 2006, has been closed to public viewing.
Yet Rizk indicated that he sees no reason to cease his activism on behalf of the citizens of Gaza. "I always knew there was the risk living in Egypt ? to be involved in these kind of activities," he said. "So you know there's a risk if you speak out too much. You know there's a risk."
Rizk isn't sure why he was treated better and released sooner than other arrested Gaza activists, but cited his dual citizenship and international pressure from "amazing friends from around the world."
"I knew there were people on the outside that knew what was going on, that were getting involved and I had some faith that things would be ok," said Rizk, who called attention to other arrested Egyptian bloggers who lack such ties and currently remain in detention.
Huslman said the AP's Paul Schemm called the press conference unusual, saying Rizk is not the first blogger and humanitarian activist to be arrested but that most, if they are freed, do not speak to the press.
Philip also gave an interview to an Arabic human rights group. The money quote:
"I was repeatedly questioned about everything and I was terrified. Although I was not abused physically, I was blind-folded all the time. Officers kept saying to me: "Do you know what we can do to you?", and I was threatened with long term imprisonment. They asked me if I supported Hamas, was working for Israel, and, being Christian, if I was an evangelist. I was never informed of any charges against me."
And here is a first-hand account from Rizk's sister. The money quote:
"It was really hard because we had so many false alarms that he was being released?. Now he has been released, just in time for his birthday. Before this happened we had planned a big party on our balcony with dancing and food, and now we really have something to celebrate."
For a fuller treatment of the press conference and a transcript, click here for the account from Cornelis Hulsman, executive director and editor of the Arab West Report.
Photo credits: Lisa Tribuzio, Arab West Report