Human Rights Watch urges Egypt to free Mursi aides

The rights watchdog says five of Mursi’s aides were detained without any legal basis

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Human Rights Watch urged Sunday Egypt’s military-installed government to free five aides of ousted Islamist president Mohammad Mursi, who have been detained since July without any legal basis.

“Almost five months later, the government has yet to formally acknowledge their detention or disclose their fate or whereabouts, conditions that constitute enforced disappearance,” the rights watchdog said in a statement,

The five men - Essam el-Haddad, Ayman Ali, Abdelmeguid el-Meshaly, Khaled el-Qazzaz, and Ayman el-Serafy - were arrested following Mursi’s ouster by the military on July 3 after mass protests against his one-year rule.

HRW says they are being held at an undisclosed location without judicial process and with very little outside contact since then, amid a crackdown by Egyptian authorities on Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood.

“What kind of roadmap is this where a military-backed government can brazenly disappear former presidential aides for 150 days without any explanation?” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director of HRW in a statement.

“Forcibly disappearing people for months on end doesn’t inspire confidence that this government intends to follow the rule of law,” she said.

HRW quoted Qazzaz’s wife saying that the military was holding the five men together “in a single room, allowing them outside for only one hour a day and denying them access to phones or the Internet.”



It said that relatives of the detainees told HRW that they feared the government was “detaining their relatives to use as leverage for future negotiations with the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Qazzaz’s sister, Mona el-Qazzaz, told HRW she believed her brother was being “kept in the fridge” for use as a negotiating lever with the Muslim Brotherhood.

“The prolonged enforced disappearance of anyone is a crime, pure and simple,” Whitson said. “The Egyptian authorities should immediately free them unconditionally.”

More than 1,000 people have been killed and thousands more arrested, mostly Islamists, since Egyptian authorities launched a crackdown against Mursi supporters in mid-August.

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