Rights organizations have condemned the Thursday arrest of at least 31 people, including employees of the Egyptian Coordination of Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) and Aisha al-Shater, the daughter of senior Muslim Brotherhood figure Khairat al-Shater. The groups issued a joint statement on Saturday demanding information about their whereabouts.
During a series of dawn raids on Thursday, security forces arrested Aisha al-Shater and at least 30 others, including ECRF employees, as well as a number of lawyers and activists unaffiliated with the independent rights organization, according to lawyer Mohamed al-Baqer.
The Saturday statement was signed by various NGOs, including the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, Al-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, the Adala Center for Rights and Freedoms, the Cairo Center for Human Rights Studies, the Egyptian Front for Human Rights, and the Community For Justice.
Baqer told Mada Masr that Aisha al-Shater was arrested alongside her husband, Mohamed Abu Horaira, a lawyer and former spokesperson of the ECRF, on Thursday. Lawyer Hoda Abdel Moneim, a volunteering consultant with the coordination and former member of the state-appointed National Council for Human Rights, was also among those arrested.
Abdel Moneim is on the legal defense team of a number of cases related to the rights of detained individuals, which could be the reason behind her arrest, lawyer Mohamed Toson explained to Mada Masr.
Both Baqer and Toson said they had no knowledge of their clients’ whereabouts, with Baqer adding that he believes the National Security Agency (NSA) may be holding them. Abdel Moneim’s daughter Fadwa Khaled shared similar concerns on her personal Facebook page, where she wrote, “National Security Agency forces arrested my mother.”
In a Thursday statement, Abdel Moneim’s family said that security forces raided their house and damaged some of their personal belongings, before taking Abdel Moneim blindfolded to an unknown location. The family added that Abdel Moneim suffers from a condition called foot drop and that there are medications she should be taking regularly.
In another statement issued on Thursday, the ECRF announced that they would suspend their operations in Egypt in protest of the “repressive practices” and “human rights violations” they have observed in the country, citing Abdel Moneim’s case and the March arrest of ECRF head Ezzat Ghoneim as examples.
Ghoneim, the organization’s executive director, was arrested and added to Case 441/2018 in early March. His conditional release in the case was ordered in September. However, while the police station where he was being held told his family he had been let out of custody and the relevant paperwork was completed, he has not been seen since the day of his supposed release.
On October 20, another arrest order was issued for Ghoneim, whose whereabouts were still unknown. According to the order, Ghoneim had violated the conditions of his release, one of which entailed regular appearances at a designated police station where he would remain for a holding period. His lawyer Ahmed Shawky suggested that he is being illegally held in custody at the NSA’s headquarters, thereby preventing him from fulfilling the conditions of his release.
In addition to Ghoneim, Case 441/2018 also includes a number of other journalists, photographers and students arrested in recent months and held in custody pending further investigation into charges related to spreading false news and joining an outlawed organization.