Missing lawyer Ezzat Ghoneim appears in court, ordered to be detained for 45 days

After being forcibly disappeared for four months, lawyer Ezzat Ghoneim appeared on Saturday at the Cairo Criminal Court, which ordered his detention for 45 days, according to lawyer Mohamed al-Baqer.

Ghoneim and Azzouz Mahgoub — both of whom were lawyers representing Mona Mahmoud Mohamed, a woman who had alleged in a BBC interview that her daughter had been forcibly disappeared — were arrested on March 1 of last year. They were added to Case 441/2018, which involves a host of detained journalists, bloggers, lawyers and activists who face charges including spreading false news and joining a terrorist organization.

The next day, Mohamed was also arrested by security forces.

On September 4, six months after their arrest, the Cairo Criminal Court ordered the release of Ghoneim and Mahgoub on probation.

Ezzat’s brother, Mohamed Ghoneim, told Mada Masr in October that Ghoniem was transferred to a Giza court holding cell when the release order was issued, and was moved to Haram Police Station on September 8 to prepare for his release. Ghoneim’s family visited him on a daily basis, and were told by police officers that they were waiting for National Security Agency’s orders to release him.

But when Ghoneim’s family went to visit him on September 14 at the police station, officers informed them that Ghoneim had already been released and had signed the necessary paperwork. His family were not convinced, however, since Ghoneim had not come home following his supposed release, the brother explained.

Later, Ghoneim’s family were told — by officials at the police station and other sources, which Mohamed Ghoneim did not disclose to Mada Masr — that Ghoneim was being held at the National Security Agency headquarters in Sheikh Zayed on the outskirts of Cairo.

On October 20, the court issued an arrest warrant for Ghoneim and Mahgoub for violating the terms of their probation. However, their lawyer, Ahmed Shawki, told Mada Masr at the time that his clients were being illegally detained at the National Security Agency headquarters in Sheikh Zayed, and that they had never been released.

Ghoneim’s brother told Mada Masr that they had sent telegrams to the Prosecutor General and the attorney general of the South Giza Prosecutor’s Office inquiring about Ghoneim’s whereabouts, but had received no response.

Ghoneim, who is a prominent rights lawyer and executive director of the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms, remained missing until he appeared on February 9 for a hearing at the Cairo Criminal Court. Baqer, who was in court that day representing other clients, saw Ghoneim coincidentally, he told Mada Masr.

On Saturday, Ghoneim told the court that he had been held in Haram Police Station, after which he had been taken to an undisclosed site controlled by the Ministry of Interior, Baqer said. From then on, Ghoneim stated that he had not been subjected to any questioning or brought before the prosecution. He asserted to the court that he had not violated his probation terms, but was unable to fulfill them due to his detention.

Ahmed Shawki, Ghoneim’s lawyer, told Mada Masr that his client is currently being held at a Central Security Forces camp on the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road, adding that Mahgoub’s whereabouts remain unknown.

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