Arrest orders were issued for lawyers Ezzat Ghoneim and Azouz Mahgoub, who have been missing since mid-September, on Saturday for failing to meet the conditions of their release in Case 441/2018, according to lawyer Ahmed Shawky.
The Cairo Criminal Court’s Saturday order came after they failed to show up at the police station tasked with implementing the conditions of their release. Lawyers and family members, who have not seen either of them for weeks, told Mada Masr they believe the two have been illegally detained by the National Security Agency.
According to Shawky, Ghoneim, a prominent rights lawyer and executive director of the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms, and Mahgoub have both been missing since September 14, when they were reported as released from custody in relation to Case 441/2018.
The paperwork was signed and Ghoneim’s family was told that he had been let out of custody, but, according to Shawky, neither he nor Mahgoub surfaced.
Mohamed, Ghoneim’s brother, corroborated this puzzling timeline. The release orders for the two detained lawyers were issued on September 4, after which Ghoneim was transferred to the court’s holding cell, and then to Haram Police Station on September 8, according to Mohamed.
The lawyer’s brother told Mada Masr, “The family visited him there on a daily basis, and police officers told us they were just waiting for the green light from the NSA to release him.” They were informed on September 14 that he had been released.
When he did not go home, they went to the station to ask about his whereabouts and the head of the Haram Police Station told them he was in NSA custody, Mohamed said. He added that they later confirmed through informal channels that he and Mahgoub were both being held in the security agency’s Sheikh Zayed headquarters.
Shawky told Mada Masr that he believes their disappearance was intended to prompt their rearrest for violating release orders, adding that he expects them to appear again soon.
Ghoneim and Mahgoub were added to Case 441/2018 after they were arrested on March 1 and March 2 respectively. The case involves a host of detained journalists, bloggers, lawyers and activists who face charges including spreading false news and joining a terrorist organization.
Before they were detained, both of the missing lawyers represented Mona Mahmoud Mohamed, who was arrested after she appeared in a critical BBC report on the human rights situation in Egypt that aired in February.
Mohamed claimed in the report that authorities forcibly disappeared her daughter, Zubaida Ibrahim. On February 26, Ibrahim appeared sat for an interview with TV presenter Amr Adib and denied that she had been tortured or forcibly disappeared. Mohamed was arrested in March, and charged with spreading false news and joining a terrorist organization.