Prominent Egyptian activist and human rights lawyer Ahmed Seif El-Islam has died Wednesday at 63 years old, after a long struggle with heart problems. He had been in coma for nearly two weeks after an open heart operation.
Seif was involved in political activism since his student days, but studied law and became a human rights defender following his detention in 1983, during which time he was reportedly tortured.
After being released, he was involved in important human rights-related cases. In 1999 he founded, with other rights advocates, the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre to challenge human rights violations in Egypt and to offer support to victims through legal assistance in and outside courts.
He did important cases, like Islamist detainees arrested on terrorism-related charges in 2004 following the Taba bombings in Sinai, as well as 52 men arrested on suspicion of homosexual behavior in 2001, known as the “Queen Boat case.”
Al-Seif was detaiend four times, twice under Sadat and twice under Mubarak, the last time in February 2011, during the 18 days of the popular revolution that toppled Mubarak.
Seif El-Islam's wife Laila Seif is a professor at Cairo University and a fellow fighter for human rights. Their three children Alaa, Mona and Sanaa also became human rights and political activists. Both Alaa and Sanaa are currently being detained for breaking the protest law. They were however permitted to visit their sick father in hospital.