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Egypt forcibly disappears journalist after luring him with details of his imprisoned wife

Disappeared journalist and former detainee Hassan El-Kabany with his wife Aya Alaa and two daughters [Twitter]
Disappeared journalist and former detainee Hassan El-Kabany with his wife Aya Alaa and two daughters [Twitter]

The journalist and former detainee Hassan El-Kabany has been forcibly disappeared for one week after being asked to attend the national security headquarters by Egyptian authorities, who told him they had information about his wife, Aya Alaa, who is in prison.

El-Kabany was on his way home from court when he received the phone call, according to the rights activist Ahmed El-Attar of the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedom.

El-Kabany was first arrested in early 2015 at his home on charges of espionage, joining an illegal organisation, and disturbing public peace. He was released in November last year on probation, on the condition that he regularly check in at the court.

During his time in detention in the notorious Scorpion wing of Tora Prison El-Kabany was repeatedly tortured with electric shocks and denied medical care.

At the time, the Geneva-based human rights organisation Alkarama sent an urgent appeal to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture regarding El-Kabany’s arrest.

The family became well known in Egypt after El-Kabany’s wife, Aya Alaa, regularly posted photographs of their two daughters, Hams, eight, and Haya, six, on social media, waiting outside the prison to see their father, with captions about the effect his imprisonment was having on their daughters.

READ: 6 members of Egypt’s Istiqlal Party arrested at dawn

But then three months after his release Aya was herself arrested after offering her condolences to the late President Mohamed Morsi at his home in Sheikh Zayed. Aya was forcibly disappeared for 12 days and now stands accused of spreading false news about her husband’s detention.

After she learnt her husband had been tortured in prison Aya sent a telegram to the Public Prosecution headquarters to ask for her husband’s health to be preserved and that the people inflicting the torture be held accountable, but she did not receive a reply.

El-Kabany published several pictures of the girls outside the State Security Prosecution building in 2019 waiting to see their mother, and compared it to an old shot outside Scorpion Prison in 2015 where they waited to see their father.

The two girls are now staying with family members.

Over the past week Egyptian security forces have launched a renewed crackdown on members of the opposition and former detainees in Egypt.

After a series of videos detailing government and army corruption were published online by an Egyptian contractor based in Spain, Mohammed Ali, thousands of people have taken to the streets and asked that Al-Sisi stand down.

Security forces fired tear gas and live bullets at the crowds. The Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights have estimated that 516 people have been detained since the protests began last Friday.

On Thursday Wael Ghoneim’s brother was detained after Wael posted a video online which was critical of the Egyptian regime.

On Sunday the award-winning rights lawyer Mahienour El-Massry was arrested after she left the state security prosecutor’s headquarters where she had been representing several people detained in the protests.

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