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Probe Into Egyptian Detainee's Death Flawed: Rights Groups

FILE - This photo taken during a guided tour organized by Egypt's State Information Service on February 11, 2020, shows an Egyptian police officer at the entrance of the Tora prison on the southern outskirts of the capital Cairo.

Two prominent human rights groups accused Egyptian authorities on Thursday of failing to conduct an impartial and transparent inquiry into the unexplained death of an economic researcher detained.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International issued a joint statement blaming Egyptian authorities of turning a blind eye to "mounting evidence" that 48-year-old Ayman Hadhoud disappeared, was tortured and refused timely access to hospital.

“The severely flawed investigation into the causes and circumstances of Ayman Hadhoud’s death in custody is another stark reminder of the impunity crisis in Egypt,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy director at Amnesty International.

Hadhoud's location was unclear for two months before his death in April.

He died in the government-run Abbasiya Mental Health Hospital in Cairo, where he was sent for reportedly attempting to break into an apartment in Cairo's upscale Zamalek neighborhood, exhibiting "irresponsible behavior," the Interior Ministry said around that time.

Last month, an Egyptian court denied Hadhoud's family's request to reinvestigate the evidence and circumstances surrounding his death. The court affirmed the prosecutors' decision to end the case and dismiss all criminal charges.

Earlier, prosecutors had refused demands to allow independent observers to attend the autopsy of Hadhoud's body, and ultimately concluded that had died of chronic heart disease that led to a cardiac and respiratory arrest.

Both advocacy groups claimed that they had obtained leaked documents from the hospital showing that Hadhoud's health was deteriorating while in custody. However, authorities failed to transfer him promptly to a better-equipped medical facility where his life could have been saved, the groups said.

On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch issued another joint statement with the U.K.-based FairSquare group urging Egyptian authorities to lift all arbitrary travel bans that have been put in place in recent years to punish civil society activists and human rights advocates.

“The bans, which authorities usually do not formally announce and provide no clear way to challenge them in court, have separated families, damaged careers, and harmed the mental health of those subjected to them,” said the statement.

Since coming to power in 2013, President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi has rolled back many of the freedoms that were gained following the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that toppled the country’s longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

The country is ranked among the world’s worst jailers of journalists, along with Turkey and China, according to the nonprofit Committee to Protect Journalists.