An Egyptian-American activist has filed a federal lawsuit in the United States after being abducted and unlawfully imprisoned for over 40 days in Dubai last year.
Sherif Osman, a former Egyptian Air Force officer who has been living in the United States since 2004, will sue Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the Arab Interior Ministry, and Interpol for their role in his detention.
Osman was visiting his family in the UAE – a country he had traveled to at least four times since 2014 without any incidents – when he was arrested at a restaurant in Dubai on November 6, 2022.
Speaking to the media, Osman stated that he was not presented with an arrest warrant when plainclothes officers apprehended him, and he was only informed hours later that the UAE authorities were acting upon an extradition request from Egypt. He was released on December 22 after the intervention of the U.S. government.
The lawsuit includes claims that 31 videos posted by Osman on his YouTube channel, in which he called for peaceful protests in Egypt before the COP 27 climate change conference, led to his arrest.
According to the complaint filed on Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Egypt and other accused parties sought to hand Osman over “to intimidate and silence other dissidents in the United States and elsewhere.”
The lawsuit alleges that at Egypt’s direction, Interpol and the Arab Information and Media Centre (AIMC), a security entity operated by Arab League members, issued red notices to UAE law enforcement authorities to locate and detain Osman.
On November 15, when a U.S. State Department official at the U.S. Consulate inquired about Osman’s case with UAE officials, he was told that Interpol had issued a red notice against Osman, providing him with case number 138/2022, according to the complaint.
However, a week later, when a UK-based non-governmental organization posted information about Osman’s detention in Dubai on its website, Interpol contacted the organization’s executive director, Radha Stirling, to say that there was “no red notice or diffusion” for him, as per the complaint.
Stirling shared the information with a U.S. State Department official. On November 30, the complaint stated that the UAE officials informed her that Osman had been arrested due to a red notice from AIMC.
In a written statement, Osman said that he has been undergoing treatment for post-traumatic stress since his detention and feels anxious whenever he leaves his home.
He lost $250,000 from an investor based in Dubai in his start-up company and was afraid of being politically active despite planning to resume speaking out.
He expressed that the lawsuit was necessary because others believed it to be handed over for political reasons or similar means often do not have the opportunity to take legal action.