Imprisoned Egyptian Researcher Dies in Mysterious Circumstances

Egyptian researcher Ayman Muhammad Ali Hadhoud died in recent days under “mysterious circumstances”, Egyptian media sources reported, citing members of his family.

Hadhoud, a founder of Egypt’s liberal Reform and Development Party, went missing on 5 February. Officials informed the family of his death last Saturday but did not provide further details.

The family was unable to confirm his arrest for days after he had been taken into custody by police in Amiriya, a suburb of Cairo where Hadhoud resided, according to his brother, Omar Hadhoud.

“After two days, a police officer from the National Security Services came to us and told us that Ayman (was) being held with them,” Omar told the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK.

The family was then informed that Ayman had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had to be hospitalised for observation at a mental health facility in Abbasiya for 45 days.

Omar and his family denied that Ayman had ever suffered from mental health issues. They said that they were refused visitation by the hospital, which allegedly told them they needed special permission from the public prosecutor’s office. Requesting permission, the family said the prosecutor’s office told them that it had no record of his arrest or case anywhere.

“After the end of the 45 days period, we went to the National Security Services again, and we were told that he had a case in the Zainhum Prosecution Complex, and we asked all the prosecutors there, but we have not found him,” Omar said in an interview published on Saturday.

Ayman worked as an economic advisor in the Reform and Development Party, and was nominated in the 2010 parliamentary elections.

His death has been described as “suspicious” by a group of Egyptian and international rights groups, who reject the Public Prosecution’s conclusion that he had died of natural causes.

The Public Prosecution insisted that Hadhoud had died on 5 March of “hypotensive shock and cardiac arrest,” following its investigation of the case and an autopsy of the body.

“The prosecution examined his body and found no injuries, and called in a health inspector to conduct an external examination… which confirmed no criminal suspicion in his death, and police investigations confirmed no criminal suspicion in his death,” a statement by the Public Prosecution said.

This conclusion, however, was rejected by the family and human rights organisations, who accused the National Security Agency (NSA), Public Prosecution, and the Abbasiya Mental Health Hospital of concealing the truth behind Hadhoud’s death and detention.

“Evidence indicates criminal violations behind Ayman’s death, as he was alive on the evening of 6 February when he was arrested on charges of alleged theft,” nine rights groups said in a report.

Amnesty International said it saw leaked photos of his corpse, which “strongly suggests that Ayman Hadhoud was tortured or otherwise ill-treated before his death”.

731 Died in Egyptian Prisons

Ayman Hadhoud is believed to have been one of at least 60,000 political prisoners estimated to have been jailed since Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took power in a coup in 2013.

Several high-level political prisoners have died in custody in recent years, including Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected president, and former MP Essam el-Erian. Rights groups have said their deaths were most likely due to medical negligence and poor conditions in jails.

According to the Geneva-based Committee for Justice, since Sisi’s coup, at least 731 people have died in custody due to denial of healthcare.

Probe Is Required

The US administration has commented on the Egyptian researcher’s death, calling for ‘thorough’ probe.

The recent death of an Egyptian economic researcher requires a “thorough, transparent and credible” investigation, the US Department of State has said, after rights groups raised concern over Ayman Hadhoud’s death in a state mental health facility.

“We are deeply disturbed by reports surrounding the death and custody of Egyptian researcher Ayman Hadhoud and allegations of his torture while in detention,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters during a news conference.

“The circumstances of his detention and his treatment and of his death we think require a thorough, transparent and credible investigation without delay,” he said.

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