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Egypt ICU doctor appears at prosecutor’s office after criticising the government

Egyptian Dr. Ahmed Safwat was taken by state security after criticising the government
Egyptian Dr. Ahmed Safwat was taken by state security after criticising the government, 3 July 2020 [Twitter]

A member of Egypt’s medical union has appeared at the Supreme State Security Prosecutor’s office for investigation after being arrested on 28 June.

Dr. Ahmed Safwat worked as an intensive care doctor in a hospital in Nasr City before he disappeared. Colleagues said he was experiencing coronavirus symptoms and presumed he was self-isolating before his family filed a complaint to say he was missing.

Safwat has been accused of the typical charges regularly levelled against political prisoners including spreading false news, joining a group established in violation of the law and misusing social media.

A lawyer confirmed that state security had taken him after he criticised Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, who recently said that doctors have failed to tackle the coronavirus due to absences from work, “which, in a way, led to cases worsening and deaths”.

“The government says that everything is fine and under control,” Ahmed wrote in a Facebook post. “But you enter hospitals and find the opposite.”

Last week, member and treasurer of the medical union and radiology lecturer at Zagazig University, Mohamed Al-Fawal, was also arrested after calling on the prime minister to apologise for his comments.

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The medical union set up a press conference to highlight the work doctors are doing and the staff shortages and difficulty they face in getting adequate medical supplies, however, security forces surrounded the syndicate and sent everybody home before they could begin the meeting.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic in Egypt authorities have cracked down on healthcare workers who have criticised the government’s handling of the crisis.

Egypt officially has 75,253 coronavirus cases and just 3,343 deaths – the highest in the region – but experts believe the real figures to be far higher.

At least ten doctors and six journalists have been detained since the virus first appeared in Egypt whilst some 117 doctors, 39 nurses and 32 pharmacists have died of covid.

In March Doctor Aala Shaaban Hamida was reported to national security by her boss who complained she was causing fear and panic after a nurse working in her department at El-Shatby General Hospital used her phone to report a covid case to the Ministry of Health.

Others have been detained for speaking out about the lack of protective equipment including masks available to doctors. There was an outcry several months ago when Egyptians discovered their government was sending medical aid to its allies Italy, the UK and the US when medics at home were working with severe shortages.

Ophthalmologist Hany Bakr was taken from his home and remains detained on terror charges after questioning why the government sent the aid abroad when it was desperately needed at home.

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