Egypt: Incommunicado Detention of Journalist and Head of Mada Foundation
On 21 October 2015, members of the Homeland Security, together with other law enforcement officers, raided the 6th of October City building where independent NGO Mada Foundation for Media Development has its offices, arresting the 51-year-old head of the foundation, Hisham Ahmed Awad Jafar. In view of the apparent arbitrary nature of his arrest, Alkarama sent an urgent appeal to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression (SR FRDX) with a view to freeing this journalist currently detained in Al Aqrab High Security Prison, known as "Egypt's very own Guantanamo". Denied the right to visit him, his relatives fear that he could be tortured while in solitary confinement and that his health could deteriorate due to poor conditions of detention in prison.
Arrest and Incommunicado Detention
As they raided the building along with officers from the 6th of October City Investigations Department and of the Security Forces, members of the Homeland Security did not show any arrest and search warrant, which did not prevent them from searching all the rooms, including offices not occupied by the Mada Foundation. While they brought Hisham, handcuffed, outside, they confiscated all staff's ID cards as well as companies' papers and computers before closing the building.
Later on that day, a prosecutor stormed into Hisham's home together with police officers. After breaking the door down without reason, the officers searched the place while acting violently towards Hisham's relatives. They confiscated all the family's computer hardware as well as their money and personal papers and left without indicating where they had taken Hisham. Subsequently, his wife sent telegrams to several official bodies to inquire about his disappearance and was called a few hours later by a police officer from 6th of October City who recorded her statement and told her that he would be in touch with her, but to no avail.
In fact, Hisham was in Sheikh Zayed State Security compound five where, blindfolded and handcuffed he was interrogated for two consecutive days without the assistance of a lawyer. A legal counsel was only able to see him for a few minutes on 25 October 2015 when he was brought to the State Security Prosecution, but he could not confirm the charges held against him. He nevertheless believes that Hisham was accused of "affiliation to a terrorist group" and of "receiving funds from foreign entities," accusations often brought against journalists such as 32-year-old Hassan El Kabany, arrested in January 2015 and repeatedly tortured in detention.
The Prosecutor subsequently requested his transfer to Al Aqrab High Security Prison, located in the Tora Prison complex in South Cairo, where he remains detained to date. His family, who has been prevented from visiting him or even bringing him warm clothes, fears that Hisham could be ill-treated in detention or that he could develop infections while in solitary confinement.
"We do not understand why Hisham was arrested, him who did so much for the media sector in Egypt and who always collaborated with State institutions," his wife reported to Alkarama. "His arrest sounds the death-knell for freedom of press and independent research in our country and we will continue to fight for his release for him but also to preserve these freedoms."
In this sense, his relatives turned to Alkarama who asked the UN SR FRDX to call upon the Egyptian authorities to release Hisham Ahmed Awad Jafar in the absence of credible charges against him and, at the very least, to authorise his family and lawyer to visit him. The Egyptian should abide by its international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) ratified in 1982, ensure that no one be at risk of arrest for expressing his/her opinion and immediately release all the journalists who are currently in jail for doing their work.
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