Activist Amr Mohamed Mahmoud, known as Amr Sokrat, was forcibly disappeared on Wednesday night after being arrested during a raid on a cafe in downtown Cairo.
Five other activists were also arrested during the raid, believed to be carried out by National Security Agency forces. All six were transferred to an unknown location for a brief interrogation. They remained missing for approximately five hours, after which five of them were released and dropped in the street by a police truck.
Those released, Zizo Abdo, Ahmed Shahin, Mahmoud Mohamed, Omar Hazek, and Nour Khalil, have previously been detained on politically motivated charges.
Rights lawyer Mokhtar Mounir told Mada Masr that he attempted to locate Sokrat in police stations close to where the activists were arrested, however station officials all denied having him in their custody. He explained that the reason for his arrest is unknown, suggesting that he may have been detained by the National Security Agency, a claim backed by the five activists who were detained alongside him on Wednesday.
Shahin told Mada Masr that the security forces that raided the cafe were targeting the six activists, and took them to an unknown location after their arrest which he believes was the agency’s headquarters in Lazoghly, downtown Cairo.
“We were six people, and they interrogated each one of us individually. Five of us left and Sokrat remained in detention. We don’t know where he is or what charges are leveled against him,” Shahin said.
A student and activist, 20-year-old Mohamed previously spent two years in pretrial detention for wearing an anti-torture t-shirt, before he was released last year. In a post published on Thursday he said that those who interrogated him asked for details about what he has been posting on his Facebook page.
“It is very strange that the government has not had enough, after imprisoning me for two years and two months,” he wrote. Mohamed detailed elements of his interrogation, saying the interrogator told him “tell me your story, and the story of the t-shirt away from the social media sphere that has made you a national hero.
Although he was only detained for five hours on Wednesday, Abdo expects his Wednesday arrest will cause some problems. He was previously detained for several months on charges related to protests over the agreement to transfer the Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia. He is now required to spend several hours at the Boulaq police station three times a week, as a precautionary measure. As his arrest prevented him from checking in on time on Wednesday, he may be returned to pretrial detention.
He wrote in a Facebook post that he and his defense team will speak with the prosecution to follow up on the matter.
Egypt has faced local and international criticism in recent years for the increasing number of forced disappearances. An Amnesty International report published in July 2016 notes that the practice has become more prominent against the backdrop of a crackdown on human rights work and political activity.