Two women forcibly disappeared, arbitrarily detained by Egypt security forces: HRW

Two women forcibly disappeared, arbitrarily detained by Egypt security forces: HRW
Two Egyptian women with no known political affiliations were arrested and disappeared by authorities last week, with one wounding up detained pending investigation into alleged terrorism charges.
2 min read
29 April, 2020
Kholoud Said (L) and Marwa Arafa (R) had no known political affiliations [Twitter]
Egyptian security forces last week arrested and forcibly disappeared two women, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Wednesday, later bringing "vague and apparently abusive" charges against one of them.

Marwa Arafa, 27, and Kholoud Said, 35, were arrested on 20 and 21 April, respectively.

Said, a senior translator and editor at the Alexandria Library, was arrested by a group of plain-clothed and uniformed security forces at her family home in Alexandria shortly before midnight, HRW said.

Security forces also confiscated her mobile phone, laptop, and documents.

Said's family could not locate her and officials did not respond to their inquiries. Her loved ones were told she was taken to a local police station, although officers there denied Said she was being held inside.

On Tuesday, Said appeared before State Security Prosecutors in Cairo, HRW said. She was sentenced to a 15-day detention pending investigations into allegations that she joined a terrorist group and spread false news.

Lawyers told HRW that Said was interrogated over Case No. 558 of 2020 - known as the "Coronavirus Case" - which saw a wave of arrests of activists, lawyers, and social media users for criticising the government's response to the virus outbreak.

The case includes seven children who were later conditionally released, according to HRW.

Prosecutors focused their questions on news articles criticising the government she allegedly shared on Facebook, Said's friend told HRW.

Said's friends said she has no political affiliations.

Read more: Comment : Sisi uses coronavirus to enshrine new powers at the expense of his people

Arafa, a translator and management consultant, was arrested close to midnight at her apartment in Nasr City. 

They searched her apartment and interrogated Arafa in one room, while confining her 21-month-old child, her 19-year-old sister, and a nanny in another.

Arafa was taken from her home by the security forces who also confiscated her phone and a large sum of cash, according to HRW. 

Arafa's whereabouts remain unknown. An acquaintance told HRW she had not been politically active in years.

"Marwa Arafa and Kholoud Said were taken from their homes and forcibly disappeared as their families stood by helpless," said Amr Magdi, Middle East and North Africa researcher at HRW.

"No warrants, no explanations - this is the behaviour of a security establishment run amok."

On Tuesday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi ordered the renewal for three months of a long-running state of emergency, citing health as well as security concerns.

The state of emergency gives police broad powers of arrest and detention and curtails constitutional rights such as freedom of speech and assembly.

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