- The Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR) today expressed its deep concerns over reports of the kidnapping of journalist Abdel Halim Qandeel, editor of the Nasserite weekly 'al Araby', from in front of his house in the Pyramids area. The group called for "an immediate enquiry into these events."
On his way home at dawn on Tuesday, a speeding car stopped in front of Mr Qandeel and his passengers, four men wearing civilian clothes, forced him to get into the car. They reportedly blindfolded, punched and kicked him and threatened him with knives. They threatened to kill him "so that [he will] stop talking" and left him naked in a remote area in Muqattem, Cairo.
Mr Qandeel is a well known critic of the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. The press in Egypt always has had to be careful when criticising the government and outspoken journalists are frequently intimidated.
Attempts to intimate opposition journalists in Egypt date back to 1988; the late Moustafa Shordy, 'al Wafd' journalist Ayman Nour and Abdel Azeem Manaf, the then editor of 'Sowt al Arab', all falling victim to physical attacks by unknown perpetrators.
According to EOHR, the kidnapping of Mr Qandeel "forms part of a series of attacks and death threats directed against journalists" in Egypt. In August 1995, the writer and journalist Gamal Badawy, the then editor of al Wafd, was subject to a frenzied assault by ten men of an unknown identity, while in June of the same year journalist Mohamed Abdel Qadouss was similarly assaulted after the two men announced their opposition to a controversial law.
EOHR today strongly condemned the assault on Mr Qandeel and other journalists as constituting a violation of the right to life, liberty, security of persons and physical well-being, as protected by the Egyptian constitution. Article 280 of the Egyptian Penal Code explicitly forbids arrest and detention without a warrant from the competent authority.
Further, EOHR recalled, article 40 of the Criminal Procedures Code provides that no one may be arrested or detained except with a warrant from the authorities legally empowered in this matter. He must be treated in a manner which respects his human dignity and must not be harmed physically or psychologically.
The Egyptian human rights group today called on the Interior Minister to launch an immediate investigation into the circumstances surrounding this assault and into the identity of its perpetrators before bringing them to justice. "The results of this investigation must be made public and measures taken to protect the life and well-being of Mr Qandeel, who must be given a medical examination in order to ascertain the extent of his injuries," the group said.
- Real movement on the part of the authorities is enough to put an end to these practices used to contain opposition journalists, claimed EOHR in its statement, thus again indicating that the government had been behind the attack against Mr Qandeel.
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