CAIRO: Shadi Al-Ghazaly Harb, former member of the Democratic Front Party and assistant professor of General Surgery at Cairo University was released on Wednesday by Egyptian authorities after around 34 hours of detention.
Harb was about to take a flight to Ireland to sit for his fellowship exams at the Royal College of surgeons, scheduled for Thursday and Friday, when he disappeared at the airport.
“While I was at the passport check in, I was stopped by airport security and a man dressed in civilian clothes took my cell phone and asked me to accompany him. I was then blindfolded, handcuffed and taken to a minibus. It took us around 15 to 20 minutes to reach the destination where I was detained in a prison cell,” Harb told Daily News Egypt in a phone interview Thursday.
“I’m pretty sure the soldiers outside my cell were from the Ministry of Interior because I heard them talking, but I’m not sure what kind of authority my interrogators were from,” Harb added.
According to Harb, he was interrogated about his support for the “together for change” campaign in London, spearheaded by ElBaradei and whether there were any secret organizations supporting ElBaradei.
“I told them I know nothing of secret organizations and I don’t support any certain individual, but I support ElBaradei’s demands for democracy and change in Egypt,”
He was also asked about his participation in the campaign against Gamal Mubarak inheriting power from his father, incumbent President Hosni Mubarak and the reasons behind them. He was also questioned about the campaign supporting Egypt’s intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as Egypt’s next president.
Harb said there was no intimidation involved in his interrogation, it was conducted “smoothly and calmly, more like a discussion”. He said he was treated “very well”, except for a few soldiers who tried to verbally abuse him.
“When I told them I was a doctor and demanded that they treat me with respect, they backed off,” Harb said.
The last his family heard from him was before he entered the passport control unit at the airport.
According to his father, Dr. Tarek Harb, Shadi’s phone was turned off. For around two hours his family didn’t even know whether or not he had boarded his 8.30 am flight.
“Finally an employee at British Airways told us that his name had been checked off the list of boarding passengers around 15 minutes before the plane took off, but he didn’t know who cancelled his name or why,” Tarek Harb told Daily News Egypt.
At the time, Airport security said they had no knowledge of Shadi Harb’s abduction or his whereabouts.
Shadi, nephew of the founder and leader of the Democratic Front Party, Osama Al-Ghazaly Harb, was a member of his uncle’s party when it was first established but due to his frequent travels, his membership was frozen.
He has been studying and working in England for two years and only arrived to Cairo around a month ago.
Harb’s abduction didn’t come as a surprise to him; he was expecting it after his friends and activists Amr Salah, researcher at Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, and Ahmed Eid — both are active members of the Democratic Front Party and supporters of ElBaradei’s campaign — were abducted in a similar manner last week and released on Friday.
Shadi’s father had made the same speculation on Wednesday.
Salah and Eid were abducted last week by plain-clothed men who described themselves to eyewitnesses as “members of Egyptian security”.
They were not charged with any crime and were not given any explanation for their detainment, raising wide speculation that Harb was abducted by State Security police in the same manner.
“The way he disappeared has State Security written all over it. Amr Salah and Ahmed Eid disappeared the same way before. Anything is possible now under the emergency law,” Tarek Harb told Daily News Egypt on Wednesday.
Harb later said that the people who abducted him denied that they were State Security. “We are not State Security, (State Security are the ones) who handle the demonstrations,” he quoted them as saying.
The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said in a statement issued on Tuesday that the secrecy and vagueness surrounding the disappearance of activists lately indicates that an authority higher than Egypt’s State Security Intelligence is behind these incidents.
“After the recent launch of a campaign supporting Omar Suleiman [Egypt’s intelligence chief] as the next Egyptian president and based on things we’ve heard, we believe that Egyptian intelligence might be behind these abductions,” ANHRI director Gamal Eid told Daily News Egypt.
Earlier this month, a group of unknown activists put up posters around Cairo supporting Egypt’s intelligence chief as a possible candidate in next year’s presidential elections.
Newspapers reporting on the campaign were confiscated before they appeared on newsstands and a police investigation into the identity of those behind the poster campaign ensued.
No public announcements on the results of the probe have yet been made.