More cases of individuals believed abducted by security forces in a wave of disappearances over the past two weeks are emerging, as reports by activists and family members are published online.
On 2 June, 20-year-old engineering student Omar Gamal disappeared during a family outing. In a statement posted online, Gamal’s sister told how her family were spending the evening at a Heliopolis sporting club, when eight men in civilian clothes took her brother away in a microbus without identifying themselves. Family members approached the club’s security guards to ask whether they had seen Gamal. The guards told family members that a man identifying himself as Ahmed, “a police captain from Zeitoun police station”, had entered the club during the evening.
The family subsequently visited Zeitoun police station to enquire after Omar Gamal, but officers there denied knowledge of the student’s whereabouts. The family also tried in vain at the Nazha police station and National Security offices, but were also provided with no information or support over Gamal’s disappearance.
The family have sent a telegraph to the prosecutor general and the interior minister lodging an account of the disappearance, but have so far received no response.
A Ministry of Interior spokesperson previously denied police forcibly take individuals in this manner, also telling Daily News Egypt that Egypt’s police forces are currently not targeting young people, regardless of their political stances and positions.
However, local media have reported that some of the disappeared individuals have appeared on charges of belonging to an illegal organisation and unlawfully calling for protests before prosecution. Some, like engineering student Ahmed Khuttab, who this weekend has been re-detained for 15 days just a day after having been released, claim having been beaten and tortured by security forces.
Activists believe many cases are linked to an upcoming strike called for by the 6 April Youth Movement, and are an attempt to neutralise activism by the Ministry of Interior. However, while 6 April is mainly composed of young students, the recent wave of disappearances has also targeted those of older ages.
Ahmed Amin Suleyman, understood to be a 44-year-old employee of the US Embassy, has been missing since 26 May. Activists have shared his story online, describing how, on 25 May, government security forces visited his house but did not find him. The following day, Suleyman went missing and his wife received a call informing her that he had been arrested. Since then, however, his wife has been unable to find out more information, with the local Helwan police department denying knowledge of his location. Suleyman’s family filed a report dated 1 June to the Prosecutor General to report the abduction.
A spokesperson from the US embassy in Cairo was not immediately aware of the situation, but told Daily News Egypt that he would look in to the case.
“We reached a point of having killing squads in the Ministry of Interior used against activists. The rights of citizens are being lost, and the constitution ignored. The Ministry of Interior is taking its vengeance against the people who made the 25 January Revolution,” Mokhtar Mounir, a lawyer at the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), told local independent media outlet Mada Masr on Friday.
Mounir highlighted that the practice of seizing individuals in this manner is unconstitutional. Article 54 of the Egyptian constitution states: “All those arrested or detained shall be informed of the reasons and of their rights in writing, and allowed to immediately contact their kin and lawyer, and be presented to the investigating authority within 24 hours of the time of arrest.”
Last Saturday, Daily News Egypt pieced together the story of Islam Ateeto, a student who disappeared from Ain Shams University while sitting an exam and was found dead the next day.
Daily News Egypt received testimonies from eyewitnesses to his abduction and those who saw the CCTV recordings of the day in the university. The Ministry of Interior accused Ateeto of killing police officer Wael Tahoon in April, and stated that Ateeto died in a shoot-out with officers. However, the information gathered suggested the ministry account be untrue, and that Ateeto was chased and forcibly arrested at the university.