An Egyptian human rights activist has been missing since earlier this month, his wife said Friday, adding that believes he was taken by police. His rights group claimed it has information that he was arrested under so-called “forced disappearances.”
There was no immediate confirmation from the authorities on the whereabouts of the activist, Ahmed Abdel-Fattah, 40. The rights group he works for — the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms — said on Thursday that it received information he had been arrested but that the police are denying this.
Abdel-Fattah’s wife, Doaa Abdel-Moneim, told The Associated Press that the last time she saw her husband was 11 days ago when he dropped her off outside a Cairo drugstore where she went in to buy diapers for their 10-month-old baby boy.
She kept trying to call him for several hours but he wasn’t answering his mobile phone until it was eventually turned off, she added.
“Since that day and until this very moment, I do not know anything about him,” recounted Abdel-Moneim.
Abdel-Fattah has long worked with the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, which has taken a prominent role in defending those arrested amid a recent crackdown following rare protests in September against President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s government.
At least 3,000 people were detained, including journalists, politicians and university professors, though hundreds were later released. Since 2015, Abdel-Fattah was in charge of reporting human rights violations in the Upper Egypt region, his wife said.
“Not knowing anything about him for 11 days is quite terrifying,” said Abdel-Moneim, adding that she has sent letters to both Egypt’s interior minister and the public prosecutor, pleading for information.
The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms said Abdel-Fattah was arrested at a police checkpoint and escorted to the nearest police station on the same day he disappeared. The group said the police station later denied he was there.
His “enforced disappearance attests to the continuation of the method used by Egyptian authorities to terrorize human rights advocates,” the group’s statement read.
Since 2015, activists say there has been a spike in Egypt of such forced disappearances — amounting to secret abductions or imprisonments, often followed by a state’s refusal to acknowledge a person’s fate. In most cases, the person reappears after a few days or weeks to be questioned on legal charges raised by prosecutors.
“Enforced disappearance has become the hallmark of the security agencies under el-Sissi,” said Mohamed Lotfy, the rights group’s executive director. Earlier this year, another colleague, researcher Ibrahim Ezzeddine, was missing for over five months before he surfaced in the office of the state security prosecutors to face charges of spreading false news.
In 2013, as defense minister, el-Sissi led the military’s removal of the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, after his one-year rule proved divisive and sparked massive nationwide protests. Since becoming president, el-Sissi has overseen an unprecedented crackdown, silencing critics and jailing thousands.