Wife says missing Egyptian activist to face questioning

An Egyptian human rights activist missing since earlier this month called his wife to tell her he was about to be taken to a Cairo prosecutor's office for questioning

CAIRO -- An Egyptian human rights activist who was missing for 10 days will appear before a local prosecutor, his wife said Friday. The rights group he works for said it believes his arrest is the latest targeting of human rights workers by the government.

There was no immediate confirmation from authorities on the case of Ahmed Abdel-Fattah, 40, or the charges against him. His employer, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, has said that his disappearance is meant to “terrorize” human rights activists.

Abdel-Fattah's wife, Doaa Abdel-Moneim, said she received a brief phone call from him Friday, during which he said that he is set to appear before government prosecutors for questioning. She said she did not know on what charges he is being held. Prior to the call, the last she saw or heard from her husband was 11 days ago when he dropped her off outside a Cairo drugstore to buy diapers for their 10-month-old son. She said the past days had been ‘terrifying.’

The Egyptian government has in the past denied accusations of enforced disappearances. Officials say that arrests are either made during pre-trial detention and meet all standards of due process, or that the detained are serving a prison sentence.

Abdel-Fattah’s recent work has been defending those arrested amid a crackdown following rare protests in September against President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's government, with a focus on rights violation in the south of the country. At least 3,000 people have been detained in recent months, including journalists, politicians and university professors, though hundreds were later released.

Since 2015, activists say there has been a spike in secret arrests in Egypt, often followed by days or weeks of denial from state bodies of an individual’s detainment. In many cases, the first time the family hears of their whereabouts is when they are brought for questioning in front of prosecutors.

“Enforced disappearance has become the hallmark of the security agencies under el-Sissi,” said Mohamed Lotfy, Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms' 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.