Case Studies

Sayed Abdellatif: Tortured and living in exile


Sayed Abdellatif has been in immigration detention without any charge or trial since 2012, when he arrived in Australia by boat with his wife and six children.

Abdellatif fled Egypt in 1992 after being tortured by security services and had been living in exile with his family until he arrived in Australia. The family were initially informed that they had a claim to refugee status, but whilst they were in immigration detention, Australian authorities became aware of an INTERPOL Red Notice that Egypt had issued against Abdellatif, on the basis of which he was subsequently held in detention in Australia for over 5 years, with his family being housed separately in a community detention centre, unable to obtain asylum.

A Guardian investigation revealed that several charges on Abdellatif’s Red Notice had never actually been brought against him at his trial-in-absentia in Cairo, and were fraudulent. As a result, INTERPOL then removed those charges from the Red Notice in 2013, but kept the Notice in place for his remaining convictions of allegedly ‘being a member of a terrorist group’ and ‘providing forged travel documents’. In 2016, documents came to light revealing that the Australian Government had known for 18 months previously that the remaining convictions on Abdellatif’s Red Notice were the result of evidence obtained ‘under severe torture’ that was used to convict Abdellatif in-absentia. In 2015, the UN Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said that Abdellatif was being held in arbitrary detention and should be released and compensated accordingly.

Fair Trials started working with Abdellatif to get the Red Notice against him removed in 2016, on the grounds that it is clearly politically motivated and an abuse of INTERPOL’s systems. In February 2018, INTERPOL confirmed that the Red Notice against Adellatif had finally been removed.

Currently*, he remains in immigration detention in Australia, waiting to see whether the removal of the Red Notice will finally result in his being freed from detention and allowed to be reunited with his family and apply for asylum. In 2015, Abdellatif’s two eldest daughters became the first students to graduate from High School whilst being detainees of Villawood detention centre. They were not allowed to continue to Higher Education because of their status. The potential impact of the removal of Abdellatif’s Red Notice for both him and his family remains to be seen.

*This information was correct as of May 2018.