Statement by CEU President and Rector Shalini Randeria on the Exoneration of Our Student Ahmed Samir Santawy
I am overjoyed at the news that our student Ahmed Samir Santawy has been released today, following the pardon he received from the Egyptian President last night. We can breathe a sigh of relief that his ordeal is at an end after 18 months in prison under horrendous conditions, in contravention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
We extend our sincere gratitude to all who supported him during these difficult times, including his partner; family and friends; my predecessor at CEU, Michael Ignatieff; Ahmed's fellow students and teachers; those involved in the #FreeAhmedSamir movement; and the wider CEU community.
We are immensely grateful for the strong support of the Austrian Foreign Ministry without which Ahmed would not have walked free today. We would like to express our appreciation to Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, Secretary General Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, Middle East Director Gerold Vollmer, and in particular, Ambassador Georg Stillfried in Cairo, for their relentless diplomatic efforts to secure Ahmed's release. I would like to convey a special word of thanks on behalf of all at CEU to President Alexander Van der Bellen for his efforts on Ahmed's behalf. Furthermore, we thank numerous government officials from across the European Union for their extraordinary support.
We are sincerely grateful to Amnesty International Austria as well as to The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, Scholars at Risk, the Open Society University Network's Threatened Scholars Integration Initiative, Human Rights Watch, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, and the many other organizations supporting the campaign to free Ahmed with their continuous advocacy. My CEU predecessor Michael Ignatieff, my fellow rectors across Austria, the Austrian National Union of Students and numerous higher education institutions and students' associations in Austria, Europe, and around the globe have been invaluable in supporting our campaign for Ahmed's release. We thank you all.
Ahmed was jailed for merely exercising his freedom of opinion and expression as a researcher and as a citizen. While we celebrate his release and that of Patrick Zaki, we are well aware of the many other scholars who continue to be imprisoned and persecuted, such as Waleed Salem, the University of Washington PhD student. We are thus aware that there is much more work to be done to protect academic freedom.
Today we rejoice with Ahmed, his family, and Souheila Yildiz, who is his partner and who worked tirelessly to secure Ahmed's release. Ahmed, we look forward to welcoming you back to your studies for the beginning of term in Vienna!