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Calls for Egypt to release disappeared lawyer after ‘nervous breakdown’

March 12, 2019 at 11:53 am

Egyptian lawyer Azouz Mahgoub [Facebook]

The Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) has appealed to Egyptian authorities to release lawyer Azouz Mahgoub, after they discovered he has suffered a nervous breakdown in prison.

Mahgoub has been missing since 14 September, with family members suspecting that he had been forcibly disappeared alongside ECRF head Ezzat Ghoneim, having last been seen at Al-Haram police station.

Nothing was heard of Mahgoub for five months, despite some 21 local and international NGOs have signed a letter calling for his and Ghoneim’s release, stating that the security services will be held responsible for their safety.

However two weeks ago, Mahgoub suddenly reappeared in an Egyptian criminal court, before being sent again to Al-Giza prison. Last Tuesday, his family was informed that he had suffered a nervous breakdown while in detention, prompting concern over his physical wellbeing.

“We send an urgent appeal to the Egyptian public prosecution for Azouz to be released and to check his health and mental condition,” Ahmed El-Attart of ECRF told MEMO earlier today.

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In an ironic twist, in October, Egypt issued arrest warrants for Mahgoub and Ghoneim, despite it being widely known that the men were in the custody of the security services. At the time, their lawyer argued that the men’s disappearance was intended to prompt their re-arrest for violating release orders, such that they could be tried anew.

Mahgoub has now been in custody for over a year; he and Ghoneim were arrested in March 2018 for representing Mona Mahmoud Mohamed, who was detained after featuring in a BBC documentary on enforced disappearances in which she recounted the repeated kidnapping and rape of her daughter, Zubeida Ibrahim.

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. She was released in January, but security authorities extended her detention two days later.

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

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