The leader of a major human rights group in Egypt has been arrested and detained by security forces on what appears to be abusive terrorism charges, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Monday.
Mohamed Basheer, the human resources director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), was arrested at his home by security forces in the early morning hours of November 15.
Basheer’s arrest followed a November 03 meeting the group hosted with European diplomats to discuss human rights in Egypt.
“Egypt’s arrest of EIPR’s Mohamed Basheer is a dangerous escalation of the government’s campaign against human rights organizations,” said Amr Magdi, Middle East and North Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“The authorities should release everyone detained for their human rights work and end its harassment of independent activists and groups.”
An EIPR source told Human Rights Watch that “heavily armed” police and National Security Agency officers arrested Basheer at his home in Cairo and held him in an undisclosed location for 12 hours, interrogating him about the group’s work, including the meeting with diplomats.
The authorities then transferred him to the Supreme State Security Prosecution office in eastern Cairo where prosecutors questioned him about EIPR publications and legal aid work.
Prosecutors then ordered him detained for 15 days pending investigations on allegations of “joining a terrorist organization” and “spreading false information.” The source said the authorities presented no evidence to justify either charge.
The November 03 meeting at EIPR’s Cairo office included ambassadors and diplomats from Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy, and Belgium.
The EIPRis one of Egypt’s leading human rights organizations and has been at the centre of the government’s relentless vendetta against human rights and other independent organization since 2013.
The authorities in 2016 froze the assets of EIPR’s founder, Hossam Bahgat, and have prevented him from leaving the country since then.
On February 07, the authorities detained the EIPR’s researcher on gender issues, Patrick George Zaki, at Cairo Airport upon his return from his studies in Italy. National Security Agency officers held Zaki incommunicado for roughly 24 hours and tortured him, including with electric shocks, his lawyers said.
Prosecutors and judges have since routinely renewed his pretrial detention without presenting any evidence of wrongdoing. (Source: HRW)