Activist released after being reportedly detained at airport, forcibly disappeared

Amira El-Fekki
5 Min Read
Political activist Khaled El-Sayed Photo courtesy of Facebook page
Political activist Khaled El-Sayed Photo courtesy of Facebook page

A political activist was released Thursday, after being detained at Cairo International Airport on his way to Qatar, according to Freedom for the Brave, a rights’ group supporting detainees in Egypt.

Freedom for the Brave, had demanded that authorities reveal the location and reasons for the detention of political activist Khaled El-Sayed.

The group claims it has been 24 hours since his “forced disappearance”.

“El-Sayed was able to text his lawyer at dawn on Thursday from Cairo International Airport, saying he was being detained and prevented from travelling,” the group revealed in a statement Friday.

He was reportedly on his way to Qatar, where his wife resides and works. His lawyer, Halim Hennish, said El-Sayed’s message said he was being prevented from travelling and was detained, after which his phone was switched off.

“As an entire day has passed without information on the whereabouts of El-Sayed, who went forcibly missing with no legal justification or arrest warrant, we are concerned towards his physical and emotional safety, and what he could face, in times where innocent people get murdered and their bodies thrown in the desert,” Freedom to the Brave stated.

Heneish told Freedom for the Brave that airport security denied having him in custody, but later provided information saying that “the head of airport security confirmed his detention and that he was going to be handled by National Security”.

Nonetheless, a few hours later, Freedom for the Brave issued a statement expressing “anger” at passport control authorities for denying El-Sayed’s detention, and preventing his lawyer from entering.

“The denial comes at the same time ONtv channel broadcast a security statement about his arrest for being [a wanted person], without mentioning for what,” the campaign said. They added that El-Sayed had voluntarily gone through a security check before travelling, and had no criminal records on his file.

Freedom for the Brave was told by a “security source who refused to disclose his name” that El-Sayed was detained “pending trial in a misdemeanour case for the year 2014”.

However, the campaign rejected the claims on the grounds that El-Sayed, alongside three others, were excluded from the case and released in March 2014, and that all defendants in the case were acquitted.

El-Sayed was arrested during the protests which erupted on the third anniversary of the 25 January Revolution, which left dozens of demonstrators dead. He was in custody for nearly two months. Heneish told Freedom for the Brave that he has proof his client was never referred to trial in the case.

The rights group further expressed suspicion over the authorities’ action towards El-Sayed, or that a case could be fabricated to justify his detention and disappearance. They called on the attention of the state-affiliated National Council for Human Rights (NCHR).

Freedom for the Brave emphasised that the constitution guaranteed rights for the arrested, such as allowing them to contact their families and lawyers, and that investigations start a maximum of 24 hours after arrest.

Heneish added that El-Sayed was sentenced in another case to six months in prison for the possession of melee weapons. “The verdict, issued in absentia, was a surprise to him, so we proceeded with an appeal, of which he had a copy on him at the airport,” he told the group.

El-Sayed’s 2014 case had sparked widespread controversy, marking the beginning of the Freedom of the Brave campaign. This was upon reports by him, alongside co-detained activist Nagy Kamel and Al-Dostour Party spokesperson Khaed Daoud, of torture and violations against all captives of the revolution’s anniversary protests.

The Ministry of Interior had denied the claims, but rights lawyers from the independent Front to Defend Protesters, such as Mahmoud Belal and Yasmine Hossam, confirmed the detainees were subject to mistreatment, beating, and in some instances electrocution.

Their heads were also reportedly shaved and they were stripped of their clothes. Kamel had detailed police assaults on him and his colleagues in a video following his release. They had been detained at the Azbakeya police station, then Abu Za’abal prison.

El-Sayed, Kamel, alongside Mohamed Al-Sayes, Abdallah Mohamed were released in March 2014.

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Journalist in DNE's politics section, focusing on human rights, laws and legislations, press freedom, among other local political issues.
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