The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) condemns the disappearance of its lawyer in Alexandria, Mohamed Hafez, and holds the Ministry of Interior responsible for his safety and for revealing his whereabouts. Mohamed Hafez disappeared after midday yesterday from the vicinity of the Criminal Court in EL Manshia in Alexandria, at a time when security crackdown on lawyers defending human rights is escalating.
Hafez has been working with AFTE since the end of 2015, providing legal defense to victims of violations of freedom of expression in Alexandria governorate. Hafez was last seen at around 2.30 pm on Thursday 22nd August, 2019, in the vicinity of the Criminal Court in Alexandria after attending a session of a case he is following. Since then, AFTE, or any of Hafez’s colleagues or family, have been unable to communicate with him or receive information about his whereabouts.
The owner of a shop near Hafez’s home said that two policemen, who identified themselves as members of the Laban police station and the National Security Service, came to the street where Hafez lives on Thursday noon, asked about his residence, then left the street, which indicates that the Ministry of Interior is directly responsible for his disappearance. AFTE’s lawyers searched for Hafez in hospitals near the Criminal Court as well as in EL Manshia prosecution and the surrounding police stations, but his presence was not identified.
AFTE holds the Egyptian authorities, particularly the Ministry of Interior, responsible for the safety of Hafez and demands that they disclose whereabouts. Recently, the crackdown on human rights defenders escalated, including enforced disappearance, detention and charging them before the state security prosecution, in order to prevent human rights organizations from providing legal support to Egyptian citizens, who are subject to numerous violations by the Egyptian authorities. AFTE fears that the life of lawyer Mohamed Hafez may be at risk, and calls on the Ministry of Interior and the Public Prosecution to immediately disclose the whereabouts of human rights lawyer Mohamed Hafez.