Egypt: 53 days after former MP’s disappearance, state denies knowledge of his fate while emphasizing his fugitive status
The undersigned Egyptian rights organizations call on the Egyptian authorities to disclose the location and fate of Dr. Mustafa Al Naggar, a former member of Parliament and a father of three, who has been missing for 53 days. The Egyptian state has denied knowledge of his disappearance while alleging that he is a “fugitive” from the law. Credible suspicions that Al Naggar has been arrested are compounded by fears for his safety: he suffers from asthma and kidney stones, and denying medical treatment – as is customary in Egyptian prisons – would likely endanger his life.
Al Naggar himself denies the Egyptian government’s claim of his fugitive status; he had prepared a note prior to his disappearance, to be posted on Facebook in the event of his arrest. Published on October 13th, the note began: “Dear reader, if you are reading this post now, it means that its author is being held behind bars in prison.” He emphasized that he had not and would not flee the country.
Dr. Mustafa Al Naggar fits the profile of many of those forcibly disappeared by the Egyptian government: prosecuted for peacefully exercising their fundamental right to freedom of speech. Al Naggar was sentenced to three years in prison by the Cairo Criminal Court on charges of “insulting the judiciary” (Case no. 478 of 2014), on September 30th of last year. He appealed the verdict, which was upheld by the Court of Cassation in the hearing set for October 15th.
The Egyptian government has denied Al-Naggar has been arrested, with the State Information Service issuing two statements on October 18 and 29, also describing him as a fugitive from justice. Deputy Minister of Interior for Prisons, Zakariya al-Ghamri, also issued a statement saying, “The former parliamentarian Mustafa Al Naggar is not in any Egyptian prison.” Nevertheless, these official denials of arrest are consistent with the Egyptian government’s standard conduct: the government often denies the arrest of people it has forcibly disappeared, and refuses to disclose their whereabouts or fate.
No one has had any contact with Dr. Mustafa Al Naggar since the afternoon of Friday, September 28, 2018, when he was in Aswan, where he had arrived the previous day from Alexandria. On October 10th, Al Naggar’s wife received a phone call on the household landline from an anonymous person, who told her that her husband had been arrested. A search for Al Naggar was mounted in Aswan, but no trace of him was found, including in hospitals and in the morgue. Two days later, Al Naggar’s family filed a report of his disappearance with the Public Prosecutor via telegram; his attorney filed a report with the Aswan Prosecution on October 31st.
The undersigned organizations emphasize that the state has a duty to search for any person reported missing. The claim that Al Naggar is a fugitive does not absolve the state of its responsibility to find him; on the contrary, it gives added urgency to the need to discover his whereabouts. Moreover, there is no proof or evidence of the state allegation that Al Naggar has fled the jurisdiction.
The undersigned organizations fear that the coming days will reveal the falsity of the security establishment’s allegations about Al Naggar. We demand the immediate disclosure of his whereabouts; and hold the Egyptian authorities fully responsible for his life and safety.
- Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
- Egyptian Front for Human Rights
- Committee for Justice
- Nadeem Center
- Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms
- Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms
- Arab Foundation for Civil and Political Rights-Nidal
- Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE)