Security authorities have extended the detention of an Egyptian mother jailed for spreading fake news, less than two days after approving her release from prison.
Yesterday, Mona Mahmud Mohammad – also known as Umm Zubeida – was ordered to remain in jail for a further 45 days after prosecutors challenged a Tuesday ruling that ordered her release. Mohammad has been in custody since March after she spoke to the BBC about the repeated kidnapping and rape of her 23 year-old daughter, Zubeida Ibrahim, by state security forces.
The report, which highlighted various cases of disappearance across Egypt, was slammed by 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 published, 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 and being a member of a terrorist organisation.
Mohammad’s extended detention is reminiscent of similar treatment endured by her lawyers, Ezzat Ghoneim – the executive director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms – and Azouz Mahgou. Both were arrested in March and have been forcibly disappeared since 14 September, the same day they were allegedly released from police custody. Their families have not heard from them since, believing them to be illegally detained by Egypt’s National Security Agency.
In an ironic move, Egyptian authorities subsequently issued arrest warrants for the two lawyers a month later, claiming they had violated the terms of their release by failing to reappear at court appointments. Their whereabouts remain unknown.
Egypt has regularly denied incidences of enforced disappearances, despite several NGOs pointing to substantial evidence of state abductions. Last year, Amnesty International condemned the escalating “human rights crisis” in the country in its annual World Report, specifically mentioning the disappearances of hundreds of people on unknown charges.
In a subsequent report released in November, Amnesty also accused the Egyptian government of kidnapping and torturing children, providing evidence that at least six children have been tortured in custody. A further 12 have been disappeared from their families since 2015.