Egypt: Amnesty calls on authorities to investigate 'suspicious' death of economist

Egypt: Amnesty calls on authorities to investigate 'suspicious' death of economist
Amnesty International called on Egyptian authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the death of Ayman Hudhud after collecting evidence that the economist was beaten and tortured before he died.
3 min read
15 April, 2022
Amnesty International said Ayman Hudhud’s family 'deserves answers' [Getty]

Egyptian authorities must conduct an “impartial and effective” investigation into the suspicious death in custody of Ayman Hudhud, Amnesty International said on Thursday.

The prominent economist went missing on 5 February and was pronounced dead in early April after being admitted to Abassiya psychiatric hospital in Cairo.  

The Egyptian prosecution and interior ministry have denied responsibility for his death while also sharing contradictory statements over its cause. They claimed he may have contracted Covid-19 and that he had a cardiac arrest. 

After collecting interviews with close contacts and sharing photos of the body with an independent forensic pathologist, Amnesty said they have reason to believe Hudhud was beaten and tortured before he died. They want Egypt to conduct a thorough probe and provide Hudhud’s family with answers. 

“Following any death in custody, there is a presumption of state responsibility in arbitrary deprivation of life. As the authorities subjected Ayman Hudhud to enforced disappearance, possible torture and other ill-treatment…this concern is greatly heightened,” said Lynn Maalouf, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty

Egypt’s interior ministry said the 48-year-old was detained for allegedly attempting to break into an apartment in the upscale Zamalek district of Cairo and exhibited “irresponsible behaviour”. 

Authorities at the police station and later at the psychiatric hospital repeatedly denied having Hudhud in their custody to his family at the time.

It was days after Hudhud’s initial detention that close relatives learned about his incarceration at Abassiya, and they were barred from seeing him in person. 

News of his death was first confirmed informally when a friend received a call from a staff member. This was on 4 April, almost a month after Hudhud passed away according to his death certificate. 

An autopsy into the death was ordered on 11 April, following days of public outcry. Prosecutors claimed they found no injuries on Hudhud’s body. Family members have not received the autopsy report. 

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The EU’s Special Human Rights Representative Eamon Gilmore completed a three-day visit to Egypt this week during which he discussed allegations of mistreatment of detained people, according to AP. 

“I appreciate the frank and constructive engagement I have had in Egypt. It is my intention to continue the dialogue on all the issues,” he said. 

Egypt's government under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has imprisoned and tortured tens of thousands of government opponents. Many people have been detained without due process.

Hudhud - who posted regularly on social media criticising authorities' economic policies - was reportedly troubled by the involvement of security forces in politics, according to the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.

He was also a former economic advisor to politician Mohamed Sadat, a member of the National Council for Human Rights, and nephew of the late President Anwar Sadat.