CAIRO: Two Sudanese men arrested in April 2007 remain in detention eight months after an order was issued for their release, Daily News Egypt learned.
Nezar Hammad and Salah Eddin Moussa were part of a group of 11 Sudanese nationals arrested outside the United Nations High Commission for Refugees’ (UNHCR) Mohandiseen office on the morning of April 2, 2007.
The 11 had gone to the office to enquire about financial compensation for two children killed during the violent break-up of the 2005 Mostafa Mahmoud protest, during which nearly 30 people died.
In a statement issued two days after the arrest and published on the website of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, the Arab Foundation for the Support of Human Rights alleges that UNHCR officials responded to their enquiry by calling the police.
The group of 11 were arrested and taken to Dokki police station where the two female members of the group were released on the same day.
The remaining nine were interrogated by the Dokki public prosecution office. According to the Arab Foundation statement, lawyers sent by the foundation to represent them were prevented from talking to the detainees.
The group was charged with riotous assembly and disturbing the peace. The prosecution office ordered that they be detained for four days, after which they were returned to Dokki police station.
Their detention was continuously renewed until April 26 when they were cleared of all charges by the North Imbaba Court.
However, they were not released. Rather, the group was held in Giza police station until April 29 when the 11 men were taken to the Sheikh Zayed state security office in Sixth of October City. All the detained men were released except for Hammad and Moussa.
A lawyer from the Association for Human Rights Legal Aid (which assisted the refugees until they were found innocent by the North Imbaba court) told Daily News Egypt that he was not even aware that Hammad and Moussa were still in detention.
Rights groups have repeatedly criticised the systematic and widespread practice of administrative detention in Egypt, whereby detainees who receive court release orders “disappear in state security offices or police stations until a new administrative order for their detention is issued.
Daily NewsEgyptwas given a written statement by Nezar Hammad’s brother in which Hammad describes what happened to him in the state security building.
“They blindfolded our eyes then started the interrogation with us; we were forced to sign some papers.They exercised worse kinds of physical and psychological tortures [sic] against us, they beaten [sic] us with hoses and used the electric shocks, no [sic] enough food or water for long time, we were compelled to stay up or sit down for long times.
Hammad and Moussa were kept in the state security office for 38 days until June 7 when they were taken to El-Qanater prison.
On July 16 the two men were returned to the state security office where they were forced to write applications to UNHCR for resettlement in Kenya.
Hammad told Daily News Egypt during a meeting in El-Qanater prison that applications were made involuntarily: “We had no choice. They told us that we can either leave for Kenya or stay in prison, he said.
Hammad and Moussa made clear that the applications were made against their will to a UNHCR officer (whose name is omitted here upon UNHCR’s request) who visited them in prison on the July 24. According to Hammad’s written statement the officer gave them each LE 100 and “promised to solve this problem. When contacted by Daily News Egypt UNHCR’s official spokesperson said, “UNHCR has a policy of not commenting/discussing publicly individual cases for the protection of the confidentiality of people of concern to UNHCR and generally speaking so as not to jeopardize efforts aimed at addressing protection problems and identifying solutions.
Nearly six months after UNHCR’s visit the men have heard nothing from them.
Hammad suspects that he and Moussa are being kept in prison under an administrative detention order but has been unable to establish this with any certainty.
Both men were involved in the organisation of the 2005 Mostafa Mahmoud protest against UNHCR treatment of Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers which took place in the square in front of the UNHCR building. In addition, both men signed the Dec. 17 agreement between UNHCR and protest leaders in which UNHCR agreed to a bundle of demands.
Hammad told Daily News Egypt that he remains unclear about the reasons why he and Moussa are still detained and why the authorities want them to leave Egypt.
“Nobody tells me anything. I have repeatedly asked for the prison authorities to appoint a lawyer but they have not done so yet, he told Daily News Egypt.