The family of an outspoken Egyptian asylee living in Chicago has just appeared in court following more than two months of forcible disappearance.
Aly Hussin Mahdy's father, uncle, and cousin were arrested in Egypt at the beginning of February following a series of videos Aly posted online speaking out about human rights abuses committed by the Egyptian government.
He was subject to a defamation campaign by the state-run media back home in Egypt, smeared online, and sent death threats
With their arrest, they became one of dozens of families in Egypt who have been punished at home as a punitive measure for loved ones speaking out abroad.
Aly believes their location was finally revealed because he continued to speak out about his family's disappearance despite attempts to silence him.
Following news from a family member who managed to attend the court hearing, Aly discovered that his family has been incarcerated in Borg Al Arab Prison and that they have suffered brutal torture with electric shock.
Aly's father was on crutches and needed support to walk in the courtroom after prison authorities broke his leg during the interrogation and torture.
Aly told MEMO that his father's leg may be bleeding from the inside and that he is worried for his life if it gets infected and not treated.
His father is being accused of two charges, financing and being a member of a terror group. His uncle and his cousin have been accused of being members of a terrorist organisation.
None of the three on trial were allowed a lawyer.
"All the charges are false and fabricated," Aly told MEMO. "They told [my family] they are there because of me."
Outspoken media figures and activists abroad say their families are being held hostage in exchange for silence and complete cessation of opposition activities.
In a recent interview Egyptian activist Mona Alshazly, who is based in the UK, told MEMOthat she stopped speaking out on her social media pages for eight weeks but during this time the regime did not stop torturing her brothers, and neither did they release them.
When she doubled the amount of social media posts and kept the spotlight on her family, that's when the torture stopped.