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Egypt orders release of Umm Zubeida jailed over spreading false news

Egyptian mother Umm Zubeida - [Facebook]
Umm Zubeida, the mother of Zubeida Ibrahim Yousef, who was arrested after publicly speaking about the disappearance and rape of her daughter by Egyptian security forces [Facebook]

An Egyptian mother, known as Umm Zubeida, who was jailed for speaking to the BBC about the enforced disappearance of her daughter was ordered to be released by an Egyptian court this week.

Mona Mahmoud Mohamed has been in custody since March after she recounted to journalists the repeated kidnapping and rape of her daughter, Zubeida Ibrahim by state security forces.

An official at Cairo Criminal Court said on Tuesday that the court had ordered the release of Mohammad, “who is accused of spreading false news over the detention of her daughter and of belonging to a terrorist group”.

However the case remains open; Mohammad must report to police twice a week and still risks being put on trial.

In March, Mohammad spoke to the BBC about the enforced disappearance of her then 23 year-old daughter, who was last seen by her family in April 2017 shortly before her wedding. Neighbours reported seeing Ibrahim forced into a police vehicle by armed and masked me when her brother went to the pharmacy one evening. Security officials had also inquired about her several times at her home prior to her abduction.

This was the second time Ibrahim had disappeared; she had previously gone missing for 28 days in 2016 and on her return, signs of electrocution and rape were found on her body. Ibrahim and her mother had also been imprisoned when they passed a protest in 2014; both had experienced torture in prison.

Read: Egypt activist Douma given 15-year prison term

The report, which highlighted various disappearance cases across Egypt, was slammed by the government President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi who called for the BBC to issue a retraction. When it was withheld, authorities called for the broadcaster’s offices in Cairo to be closed, an appeal that was later rejected in court.

In the days after the BBC report was aired, a woman claiming to be Ibrahim appeared alongside Egyptian TV host Amr Adeeb on the Kol Youm show, claiming that she had not been abducted, but had secretly married and eloped with another man. Her mother was subsequently arrested and charged with spreading false news.

Mohammad’s lawyers, Ezzat Ghoneim, the executive director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, and Azouz Mahgou were also arrested in March and have been forcibly disappeared since since 14 September, when they were allegedly released from police custody. Their families have not heard from them since, believing them to be illegally detained by the National Security Agency.

Egypt has regularly denied incidences of enforced disappearances, despite several NGOs pointing to the substantial evidence of state abductions.  Last year, Amnesty International condemned the escalating “human rights crisis” in the country in its annual World Report. It specifically mentioned the disappearances of hundreds of people on unknown charges.

In a subsequent report released in November, Amnesty accused the Egyptian government ofalso  kidnapping and torturing children, providing evidence that at least six children have been tortured in custody, and a further 12 have been disappeared from their families since 2015.

Read: British teen held in Egypt over holiday photo released from jail

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