The Ashraf Shehata listed by the Interior Ministry as currently held at Zagazig Prison is not the same Shehata who disappeared two years ago after he was summoned to the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters, lawyer and National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) member Ragia Omran said Monday evening.
Omran made the statements after it was widely assumed that Shehata, whose full name is Raafat Faisal Ali Shehata, had finally been found when the Interior Ministry issued the names of 99 detainees and their places of detention earlier on Monday at the request of the NCHR.
The Ashraf Shehata on the ministry’s list is a different person, who is currently serving a five-year sentence at Zagazig, Omran said.
Rights activists believe that Ali Shehata has been forcibly disappeared. Before he went missing in January 2014, Ali Shehata — whose nickname is Ashraf — reportedly told his wife, Maha al-Mekkawi, that he was leaving to have a cup of coffee at the NSA (formerly State Security).
After the list of detainees was released, Mekkawi — a member of the Dostour Party — went to the Interior Ministry to inquire about her husband. However, officials told her they did not know of his whereabouts.
Mekkawi has pleaded with the Interior Ministry to reveal her husband’s location for two years, but different officials have repeatedly denied that he was taken into custody.
In November 2014, Mekkawi filed an appeal with the prosecutor general’s office in an attempt to get help finding Ali Shehata, but no action has yet been taken by the prosecutor. In December 2015, she announced a hunger strike to protest his disappearance as part of a week-long campaign by rights organizations against forced disappearances.
Mekkawi told Mada Masr that she would head out to Zagazig to see for herself if her husband was there.
Interior Ministry officials have long denied reports of disappearances. Just days ago, Interior Ministry spokesperson Brigadier General Abu Bakr Abdel Karim denied claims that police forces were conducting forced disappearances. Abdel Karim maintained that the ministry and its personnel abide by legal procedures. Salah Fouad, the human rights assistant to the interior minister, recently claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood was behind recent reports that security forces were kidnapping political dissidents.
However, rights NGOs including the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and Al-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence have issued reports claiming that an average of nearly 100 individuals have been forcibly disappeared each month since August. As of this month, this makes a total of nearly 400 cases since the same time last year.
In a statement Monday, NCHR said that it had submitted complaints regarding 191 cases of forced disappearances, to which officials provided information for 118 people.
The Interior Ministry said 99 of the 191 people are in detention, 15 have been released, three have escaped from custody and one person had run away from home.