Abducted Egypt rights worker to appear before prosecutors amid unprecedented crackdown on activism

Abducted Egypt rights worker to appear before prosecutors amid unprecedented crackdown on activism
3 min read
20 December, 2019
Egyptian human rights activist Ahmed Abdel-Fattah will face questioning before state prosecutors despite the authorities' refusal to acknowledge his arrest or charges against him.
A policeman stands guard in front of a mural in Cairo's Tora prison [Getty]
An Egyptian human rights activist who was not seen or heard from for 10 days will appear before a local prosecutor, his wife said on Friday. The rights group he works for said it believes his arrest is the latest targeting of human rights workers by the regime.

The Egyptian authorities have not yet confirmed the arrest of Ahmed Abdel-Fattah, 40, or the charges against him. His employer, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), has said that his disappearance is meant to "terrorise" human rights activists.

Abdel-Fattah's wife, Doaa Abdel-Moneim, said she received a brief phone call from him on Friday, during which he said that he is set to appear before government prosecutors for questioning. She said she did not know on what charges he is being held. 

Comment: Sisi's brutal crackdown continues, aided by western accomplices

Prior to the call, the last she saw or heard from her husband was 11 days ago when he dropped her off outside a Cairo pharmacy to buy nappies for their 10-month-old son. She said the past days had been "terrifying".

The Egyptian regime has denied many accusations of enforced disappearances, however their campaign of arrest and intimidation of activists and journalists seems to be on the rise. Most are charged on "terror" offences.

Despite many accusations of foul play, officials insist the arrests are either made during pre-trial detention and meet all standards of due process, or that the detained are serving a prison sentence.

Abdel-Fattah's recent work has been defending those arrested amid a crackdown following rare public demonstrations in September against President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi's regime, with a focus on human rights violations in southern Egypt. Since the protests, at least 3,000 people have been detained, including journalists, politicians and university professors, though hundreds were later released.

Since 2015, activists say there has been a spike in secret arrests in Egypt, often followed by days or weeks of denial from state bodies of an individual’s detainment. In many cases, the first time the family hears of their whereabouts is when they are brought for questioning in front of prosecutors.

"Enforced disappearance has become the hallmark of the security agencies under Sisi," said Mohamed Lotfy, ECRF's executive director. Earlier this year, another employee, researcher Ibrahim Ezzeddine, went missing for over five months before he surfaced in the office of the state security prosecutors to face charges of spreading false news.

In 2013, as defense minister, Sisi led a military coup that ousted the country's first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, after his one-year rule proved divisive and sparked mass nationwide protests. 

However since taking on the presidency, Sisi has led an unprecedented crackdown on all forms of opposition to his regime, silencing critics through disappearances, arrests and torture and jailing thousands.

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