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Egypt: Mother of political prisoner Mohamed Hamdi is 'disappeared'

Mona Khafaja was arrested by police in Cairo last week and her whereabouts are currently unknown
A picture taken in January 2022 shows the Correctional and Rehabilitation Centre east of Cairo, during a government-guided tour for the media (AFP)
The Correctional and Rehabilitation Centre east of Cairo, pictured during a government-guided tour for the media in January 2022 (AFP)

An Egyptian human rights group has called for the release of the mother of a political prisoner who was arrested after a raid on her home in Cairo last week.

In a statement published on Monday, the Egyptian Network for Human Rights (ENHR) said that Mona Khafaja's whereabouts have been unknown for the past five days.

Khafaja, the 60-year-old mother of political prisoner Mohamed Hamdi, was arrested on 20 September.

According to the rights organisation, a number of heavily armed police officers in civilian clothes and masks turned up to Khafaja's home at dawn.

"They took her with them to an unknown destination, and she has not yet been presented to any investigative body," the statement read.

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"The arrest of Ms Mona and the arrest of others on a daily basis, especially in the governorates of Sharkiya, Greater Cairo, Alexandria and Suez comes as part of a major arrest campaign carried out by the Egyptian security authorities over the past period," the statement added.

Ahmed Elattar, the executive director of the ENHR said that her arrest was part of an ongoing campaign that has been going on for targeting a number of families of detainees held in connection with political cases.

"Mrs Khafaja is a widow and has a single son who has been detained since 2015. She is trying hard, through contacting the Presidential Pardon Committee, to get him released. No crime punishable by law was committed," he told Middle East Eye.

"The reality is painful and difficult. The security force is severe, and Egyptian security is also making random arrests of some of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s supporters," he added.

Hamdi was detained in 2015 and spent five years in prison before being released. He was then re-arrested in 2021.

ENHR called on public prosecutors and national security forces to release Khafaja and hundreds of other detainees and forcibly disappeared people.

Despite the human rights groups keeping track of the widespread abuses committed by Egyptian officials, as well as the condemnation from politicians in the West, Egypt's crackdown shows no sign of easing up.

Family members targeted

Earlier this year, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee called on Egyptian authorities to immediately release Salah Soltan, the arbitrarily detained father of a prominent US human rights defender.

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And in August, Gamal Abdul Hamid Ziada, the father of Belgium-based dissident journalist Ahmed Gamal Ziada, was arrested in what is believed to be an attempt to intimidate his son to return home. The elder Ziada was later released.

There are an estimated 65,000 political detainees in Egyptian prisons, arrested for their opposition to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's government, according to Egyptian rights groups.

The government does not have an official record of the number of prisoners, and Sisi denies his country has any political prisoners.

Those being detained are often labelled "members of a terrorist organisation" by authorities.

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