Ahmed Abdelbasit, an Egyptian-born physics teacher in New Jersey, faces deportation and a death penalty should he be returned to Egypt. Abdelbasit has no criminal record and has requested asylum in the United States. He has now been detained by ICE agents. CCS has contacted the Secretary of Homeland Security requesting clarification as to the reasons that a law abiding asylum seeker would be detained – noting that it is a grave violation of human rights for an asylum seeker facing a death sentence be deported to that country. Non-refoulment – the principle of not returning refugees to a country where they would face persecution – has been the cornerstone of international human rights law for over half a century. All international agreements in this regard have been signed by the United States.
May 8, 2018
Secretary of U.S. Department of Homeland Security
3801 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
Dear Secretary Nielsen:
The Committee of Concerned Scientists is an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world.
We write to express our grave concern for our colleague Ahmed Abdelbasit, a 33 -year- old Egyptian-born physics teacher in New Jersey who has been detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Adelbasit has no criminal record and he is seeking asylum because he faces a death sentence should he be returned to Egypt.
Ahmed Abdelbasit, who teaches at Rising Star Academy, was sentenced to death in Egypt in 2016, in absentia, by an Egyptian military court. As Human Rights Watch has reported, such trials are grossly unfair, often politically motivated, and notoriously lacking in basic due process protections.
We write to seek clarification as to the reasons for the detention of a law-abiding asylum seeker, and to remind you that it would be a grave violation of human rights to deport Ahmed Abdelbasit to Egypt, where he would face the consequences of a death sentence issued in absentia.
The principle of non-refoulement – not returning refugees to a country where they would face persecution – has been a cornerstone of international human rights law for over half a century. The United States has ratified both the 1967 Protocol to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the U.N. Convention Against Torture, both of which require the U.S. government to fully respect the principle of non-refoulement and never, under any circumstances, deport an immigrant or refugee to a country in which they would face persecution.
We urge you to ensure that this principle is respected and that, unless a valid reason is offered as to why he is in detention, Ahmed Abdelbasit should be released and allowed to resume teaching his students.
Thank you for your attention to this serious matter, and we look forward to receiving your response.
Joel L. Lebowitz, Paul H. Plotz, Walter Reich, Eugene M. Chudnovsky, Alexander Greer
Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists
Senator Cory Booker
359 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-3224
Fax: (202) 224-8378
Senator Bob Menendez
528 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-4744
Fax: (202) 228-2197 (fax)
Letters have also been sent to Jeff Sessions, Attorney General of the United States, and John F. Kelly, White House Chief of Staff.