Egyptian human rights NGOs demanded that authorities “reveal” the location of 26-year-old Islam Khalil, whom they claim the security forces have forcefully detained in an unknown place for over 70 days.
On Sunday, a number of organisations said Khalil was arrested on 24 May, after 50 masked security men raided his apartment, also taking his brother and father. According to the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), Khalil is being denied contact with his family and lawyers.
“We have seen many similar cases where people are detained in national security headquarters and banned from outside contact, in order to be forced into confessing to crimes they have not committed,” the ECRF said.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said, in a Sunday statement, that Khalil’s family filed several official complaints on 7 and 20 June in Tanta, demanding to know his whereabouts.
The issue started on 24 May at around 3am, when police arrested Islam, his brother Nour and their father. They were taken to an unknown destination after blindfolding them, according to a testimony published by Nour Khalil on his Facebook page on 27 July.
Nour, a 22-year-old student at Al-Azhar University’s Faculty of Law and Legislation in Gharbeya, told Daily News Egypt on Monday that on the day of their arrest, he was just returning from Cairo to his hometown Gharbeya. He found his building overcrowded with security forces.
“They loaded their rifles and pointed them at me, swearing to shoot me if I move,” he said, adding that they blindfolded him, hands behind back and searched him. “Until I arrived to the place of detention I did not know my father and brother were taken along, I found out later.”
The reason for their arrest remains unknown, according to Nour, who was himself released three days later without appearing before prosecution authorities for official investigations. His father, a 56-year-old retired army officer, was released on 6 June.
“They let us both go in the same way, by throwing us off a vehicle on the agricultural road,” Nour said. “One night at around 2 am, I received a phone call from my father saying he was left there, so I went to pick him up.”
Daily News Egypt inquired about the reasons for the arrest, noting an important statement made by Nour, in which he said that the police had raided their apartment six times before.
“This has been ongoing since December 2014,” he said.
Nour said he used to be politically active, as he was detained following protests of the revolution’s anniversary on 25 January 2014. “But since my release by a court acquittal, I stopped,” he added.
He further explained that in the six times, the police did not find him at home, but that his brother was there, and they were never arrested before.
During his recent arrest, Nour said he was not facing official charges, and was instead blind-folded and questioned about details of his personal life, including his acquaintances, the books he reads and places he visits.
On another note, he recalled seeing his brother Islam on the second day of their detention in a facility affiliated with Homeland Security headquarters in Gharbeya. “By coincidence, both of us headed out of our separate solitary confinements to use the bathroom,” Nour stated.
He described the situation of his brother as “barely being able to walk on his feet, with marks of physical assaults, which Islam said were the result of beating with sticks and electrocution”.
At that moment, Nour said prison guards took notice of their encounter and ended it immediately. Since then, Nour says there has been no information on his detention place, no charges and no news on his health condition.
Unofficial sources told the family that Islam was transferred to a State Security building in Cairo. However, lawyers have not found his name on official records.
“This means that my brother could face the fate of Islam Ateeto, and there would be no evidence he was detained by authorities,” Nour argued.
Ateeto is a student who was taken from outside his university, and was later reported killed by security forces in armed clashes, amid public controversy and suspicion of the circumstances of his death.
Moreover, Nour said that “authorities are capable of doing anything to fabricate charges”. This comes as their mother has reportedly also been subject to police intransigence, when she attempted to find out about her husband and sons.
“She went to security and prosecution authorities in Tanta who sent her to a police station,” Nour said. There, she was blamed by the officer for “complaining against the government”, and was held for two hours after being searched, then told to “ask again sometime later”, Nour added.
Nour said Islam worked as a sales manager, and that his life revolved around his career and social life that has nothing to do with politics whatsoever. He demanded his unconditional release and those responsible for his illegal detention to be held accountable.
Official complaints were filed last Thursday to the Prosecutor General’s office, preceded by the Ministries of Justice and Interior, the Gharbeya Security Directorate and prison authorities, who have confirmed to the family that Islam was not in any of the Ministry of Interior’s detention centres.
Nour concluded that he was hoping for more media support, saying he had only been contacted by foreign reporters. “I did receive a phone call from a popular TV show on a famous private local channel, but I was informed later that it was cancelled due to the “sensitivity of the topic”,” he said.
The issue of forced disappearances of citizens has revealed itself to be among main concerns, after previous human rights’ campaigns shed light on extended temporary detention periods, unlawful arrests and torture claims in places of detention.
A recent controversial case includes three young detainees who reportedly “disappeared” on 1 June, after going out in the Maadi district of Cairo: Esraa El-Taweel, Suhaib Saad and Omar Mohamed.
Their families stated they received notice that security forces had arrested around 150 people from Maadi that day, and their locations were later revealed to be Al-Aqrab and Al-Qanater prisons.