Security source reveals foul play behind death of Egyptian economist Ayman Hadhoud
The official narrative regarding the death of prominent Egyptian economist Ayman Hadhoud is "untrue" and that it was caused by a low-level officer while Hadhoud was in custody, a state security source revealed to The New Arab.
Hadhoud was detained in early February following investigations into his activities and criticism of Egypt’s economic situation, the state security source said, confirming he was subjected to enforced disappearance.
"The authorities feared Hadhoud would likely incite the public opinion against the state economic policies," the source told The New Arab on condition of anonymity and was not authorised to speak to the media.
"The official narrative that claimed he acted abnormally and was arrested during an attempt to enter a woman's flat, and then admitted to a mental health facility is untrue. Hadhoud was detained by state security officers as he was walking on a Zamalek neighbourhood street in Cairo," the security source said.
"Afterwards, policemen took him to the state security building in Nasr City district [also in Cairo] while he was blindfolded in order not to recognise the destination," the source added.
The source added that Hadhoud remained handcuffed and blindfolded till the following day, and was aggressively beaten prior to his interrogation.
During interrogation, the source noted, Hadhoud was in a severe state of fatigue and the officer in charge of his case had to stop questioning him because Hadhoud was losing consciousness.
"After that, Hadhoud was interrogated for a while and was frequently assaulted in a bid to force him to confess that he was connected to Egyptians living abroad who approved of what he wrote; an allegation that he denied," the source continued.
Hadhoud was a member of the liberal Reform and Development Party and an economic policy advisor to the party's founder Mohamed Sadat, nephew of former president Anwar Sadat.
Sadat has recently emerged as an unofficial negotiator on behalf of political figures and activists jailed under the regime of president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.
According to the security source, a low-ranking police officer hit the economist on his head prior to a new round of questioning, which caused a fracture in his skull and ultimately his death.
At this point, the security source said, the state-run Abbasiya mental hospital was ordered to prepare a file on Hadhoud to make it appear as if he had been admitted to the facility.
The source added that it was already planned before Hadhoud's death to admit him to at the mental hospital in case the interrogators failed in extracting a confession.
On Monday, the public prosecution responded to pressure from Hadhoud's family and activists by ordering an autopsy to determine the cause of death and if there were any indications of foul play.
The autopsy report has not been released until the time of publishing.
"All indications, undoubtedly, reveal that [Hadhoud] was in custody. His family knew nothing about him since 5 February until they were informed by the authorities that they come to receive his body," said Amr Magdi, a researcher in the Middle East and North Africa division, at Human Rights Watch to The New Arab.
"This is a textbook definition of enforced disappearance, showing the enormity of this crime, systematic practice in Egypt, amounting to being a crime against humanity," Magdi stressed.
"During Sisi's regime, forced disappearance has become widespread and systematic, comparable to what the Nazis used to do," he added.
Local and international human rights groups have documented dozens of cases of enforced disappearance in Egypt since Sisi took office in 2014. Among those who were disappeared is activist and former MP Mostafa al-Naggar, who is missing since 2018.
Sisi has further been accused by local and international rights groups of overseeing Egypt's worst crackdown on human rights in decades, with thousands of his critics behind bars. Some suffered medical negligence and were left to die slowly, while dozens of others were executed or on death row.