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Families, lawyer notify prosecution of two journalists’ disappearance
Hassan al-Banna and Mostafa al-Aasar - Courtesy: Abd al-Rahman Faris' Facebook page
 

The families of two journalists have been unable to confirm their whereabouts since Sunday and the Giza prosecutor will be notified today of their disappearance, lawyer Halim Hanish told Mada Masr.

Hassan al-Banna, who interns at the privately owned Al-Shorouk newspaper, and his housemate Mostafa al-Asar, a journalist at Ultra Sawt website, disappeared on Sunday while en route to Cairo’s Dokki neighborhood from their nearby apartment in Giza.

Banna is being held at the National Security Agency (NSA)’s Sheikh Zayed headquarters, according to an unofficial tip passed to his family by a security source with whom they have personal connections. However, Banna and Aasar’s families have thus far received no official confirmation that the two journalists are in police custody.

Hanish noted that NSA officials in Aasar’s hometown of Fayoum had summoned the journalist’s brother two months ago to inquire about him.

Banna’s family sent telegraphs reporting him missing to the general prosecutor, the Giza prosecutor, the Interior Ministry, the Giza security chief and the National Council for Human Rights on Wednesday. This is the standard procedure to report a person missing when they are suspected to be in police custody. Meanwhile, Aasar’s family continues to search for him in hospitals and police stations.

In addition to reporting the two journalists missing on Thursday, Hanish also intends to request a permit to track their phones through telecommunications companies.

Banna was communicating with a friend via a mobile texting application on Sunday morning, when he abruptly stopped responding and his phone was turned off, Hanish told Mada Masr. The lawyer added that both Banna and Aasar’s phones remain unreachable since Sunday. Aasar’s phone was switched on briefly on the day of his disappearance, and his online activity appeared to show him browsing Facebook, but calls and messages to the phone went unanswered. 

Mahmoud Kamel, who sits on the board of the Journalists Syndicate, told Mada Masr that 31 journalists are currently in imprisoned, some of whom have been officially sentenced, while others remain in pretrial detention and are yet to go to trial.

The family of journalist Hossam al-Wakil have also been unable to ascertain his whereabouts since his December 30 arrest. The Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms published a statement on Wednesday on behalf of the family, demanding that authorities reveal Wakil’s whereabouts.

Omar al-Sayyed, a journalist at the Middle East News Agency, has also been missing since police arrested him from his home in Helwan in November.

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