Cairo, 17 June 2022
On 18 June 2022, Circuit 28 of the New Cairo Criminal Court will examine the appeal submitted by the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) against the Public Prosecution’s decision that there was no reason to file a criminal lawsuit, in Case No. 738 of 2022 (Second Nasr City Administrative Court), regarding the death of economic researcher Ayman Hodhoud. AFTE hopes the court will order the continuation of investigation into Hadhoud’s death and the circumstances of his detention by the National Security Service before his death.
This paper includes several basic points that highlight the need to continue the investigation, while the Public Prosecution insists on ending it, ignoring the defence’s requests and the criminal suspicions about Hadhoud’s death.
On 1 June 2022, the Second Nasr City Prosecution issued a decision stating that there was no reason to file a criminal lawsuit, in Case No. 738 of 2022 (Second Nasr City Administrative Court), regarding Hadhoud’s death. On 19 May 2022, AFTE and EIPR submitted a request to obtain recorded footage from surveillance cameras installed in several places, including the forensic medicine unit at the Mental Health Hospital in Abbasiya, where Hodhoud was detained, and building 15A at Maraashly Street in Zamalek, where Hodhoud was arrested, according to a statement by the Egyptian Ministry of Interior.
These requests came after Hadhoud’s brother, Omar, filed a lawsuit against the director of the Mental Health Hospital in Abbasiya, the head of the forensic medicine unit at the hospital, and anyone involved in the death of his brother Ayman. The Public Prosecution decided to include these requests in the case before it issued its decision that there was no reason to file a criminal lawsuit.
Ayman Hadhoud was arrested in a building in Zamalek neighborhood on 6 February 2022, according to a statement by the Ministry of Interior. Days later, his family received a summons to go to the National Security headquarters in Al-Amiriya neighborhood, where an officer told them that Hadhoud was detained by the National Security police. Meanwhile, the head of the Reform and Development Party, of which Hodhoud was a member, told Hadhoud’s family that he mediated with the National Security police and received a promise from them that Hadhould would be released soon.
The family later found out that Hadhoud was held at the Abbasiya Mental Health Hospital. It tried repeatedly to visit him or know the charges levelled against him, but in vain. On 9 April 2022, a police officer called Hadhoud’s brother and asked him to collect his brother’s body from the Abbasiya Mental Health Hospital. Below, AFTE presents several basic points highlighting the need to continue investigation into Hadhoud’s death.
First: Negligence and complicity of the Abbasiya Mental Health Hospital
The Abbasiya Mental Health Hospital bylaw stipulates the admission procedures for patients, including the non-acceptance of cases suffering from organic diseases which a psychiatric hospital may not be able to deal with. On the contrary, Hodhoud was allowed to enter the hospital under the responsibility of the hospital’s director, Hatem Nagy, without conducting a medical examination for him, according to media reports. The following points should be taken into account:
- The Abbasiya Mental Health Hospital’s records: Article 4 of the Care of Mentally Ill Patients Law No. 71 of 2009 stipulates the necessity of having records of the patient’s health condition, the result of their medical examination upon arrival at the hospital, and a report on their psychological condition – which is supposed to be kept under observation. However, Hadhoud’s records did not contain any information about his condition. The doctor on duty on the night of Hadhoud’s death confirmed that the records were empty. She did not know who this person was, or anything about his medical history, despite the deterioration of Hadhoud’s health days before his death, which made it more difficult to deal with the case. This indicates a suspicion of negligence in providing the necessary medical care.
- Keeping the corpse inside the hospital’s mortuary for 35 days: Hadhoud’s body was kept at the hospital from 5 March to 9 April, when a police officer informed Hadhoud’s family of his death. This raises doubts about the reason for the delay in releasing Hadhoud’s body, especially as Hadhoud was known to the police.
This also contradicts Article 35 of the Care of Mentally Ill Patients Law which stipulates that “in the event of the death of a patient subject to mandatory admission procedures or treatment, the facility management should notify the competent prosecution, the patient’s family, and the Regional Council for Mental Health within twenty-four hours from the date of death. It should also send a detailed report to the Regional Council for Mental Health, attached with a copy of the deceased patient’s file, including all examinations, research and treatment methods that were used”.
In Hadhoud’s case, it is of great importance to have access to the report referred to in the aforementioned article. Hadhoud’s brother, Omar, told the Public Prosecution that he had noticed injuries on his brother’s body when he saw it in the mortuary. This is the same conclusion that a forensic expert confirmed to Amnesty International, after he saw photos of the body.
Second: The Public Prosecution’s involvement in ending the investigation
The Public Prosecution has been seeking since the beginning to prevent the circulation of information about Hadhoud’s death. It ignored the witnesses’ statements that accused both the hospital director and the head of the forensic medicine unit of violating the Care of Mentally Ill Patients Law. Moreover, the Public Prosecution posted a statement on its official Facebook page confirming that there was no criminal suspicion in Hadhoud’s death, and that he died – according to an unpublished forensic report – as a result of a chronic heart condition. It also denied the defence lawyers access to the case papers.
What the witnesses said during the investigations should have motivated the prosecution to continue the investigation instead of ending it. On the one hand, the statements of the doctor on duty, who accompanied Hodhoud during the last hours of his life, indicate the possibility of neglect at the Abbasiya Mental Health Hospital. On the other hand, the statements of two doctors from the three-member committee that examined Hadhoud’s psychological condition confirmed that he suffered from “personal disorders and schizophrenia, in addition to delusions of grandeur, and a lack of awareness of time and place”. This raises questions about the period of time during which this diagnosis was made, and why Hadhoud was not examined by the third doctor, and did the medical records in the hospital contain this diagnosis?
In addition to the doctors’ statements, Hadhoud’s brothers said they had been summoned to the National Security headquarters in Al-Amiriya, where they were unofficially interrogated. This requires the Public Prosecution to address questions to the National Security Service about the incident, rather than ignoring these statements completely. The Public Prosecution decided on 7 February to hold Hadhoud in the mental health hospital, but the decision was not implemented until 13 February. So, why did Hadhoud remain in a detention facility, and what is the connection of the National Security Service with his place of detention?
Obtaining a copy of the case papers
Article 52 of Law No. 17 of 1983, amended by Law No. 147 of 2019, states that lawyers have the right to review case papers and the prosecution and courts should facilitate the lawyers’ access to information. Article 125 of the Criminal Procedures Law and articles 605 and 612 of the Public Prosecution’s instructions stipulate the same.
The Public Prosecution allowed one of the defence lawyers to read the papers of Hadhoud’s case, including the forensic report, for an hour, but it later rejected repeated requests from the rest of the defence lawyers to review the papers. The prosecution’s move was based on the exception granted to it under Article 605 of the Public Prosecution’s instructions, which states: “unless the investigating prosecutor decides otherwise, in accordance with the interests of the investigation”.
The Public Prosecution refused to allow the lawyers to obtain a copy of the case papers, ignoring Article 84 of the Criminal Procedures Law that enables lawyers to do so. The prosecution’s behaviour, therefore, restricted the right to defence, prevented effective legal aid, and contributed to closing the paths the lawyers may take to expose those involved in the disappearance, torture and medical negligence of Hodhoud. The prosecution, moreover, did not allow the photocopying of the forensic report on the causes of Hadhoud’s death.
Third: The forensic report is shrouded in ambiguity
The forensic report concluded – according to the Public Prosecution’s statement – that the cause of Hadhoud’s death was a chronic heart condition, and that his body was free of any injuries that indicate that he was exposed to criminal violence. Hadhoud did not suffer from any chronic diseases and he had good health. The photos of his body showed signs of ill-treatment or torture.
The Forensic Medicine Authority is controlled by the security authorities and it is affiliated to an executive body, namely the Ministry of Justice, thus hindering it from performing its work independently. Independence is a prerequisite for performing the Authority’s tasks, given the technical and decisive nature of its work in cases related to proving exposure to torture, or knowing the causes of death.
All this indicates that the case was deliberately closed by the Public Prosecution, with the complicity of the Abbasiya Mental Health Hospital and the Forensic Medicine Authority. The Public Prosecution was aware of the requests submitted by Hadhoud’s family to listen to statements of new witnesses and to delegate a three-member committee to review the anatomical report. It also rejected the defence lawyers’ request – for four times – to review the case papers. Eventually, the prosecution issued a decision stating that there was no reason to file a criminal lawsuit.
AFTE stresses the need to continue investigation into Hadhoud’s death. It regards any decisions that support the termination of investigation as aiming primarily to perpetuate impunity and violate human rights systematically. AFTE hopes that the Criminal Court will issue a decision supporting the continuation of investigation into the case.
1-“Every mental health facility must have a special record for mentally ill patients - whatever the reason for entering the facility - provided that it is in two copies that include the data of each patient. The executive regulations of this law shall specify the data and the period that must be stated in the record. The National Council for Mental Health and the regional mental health councils shall have access to the records referred to for the purpose of their work in accordance with the provisions of this law, while maintaining the confidentiality of the information.” 2-The official Facebook page of the Egyptian Public Prosecution, "The Public Prosecution's investigation denies criminal suspicion in the death of Ayman Hadhoud", 18 April 2022, last visited in June 2022, link: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=522661695889358&set=pb.100044365962152.-2207520000..&type=3 3-The official Facebook page of the Egyptian Public Prosecution, 11 April 2022, last visited in June 2022, link: https://www.facebook.com/100044365962152/posts/518369599651901/?d=n 4-Article 52 of Law No. 17 of 1983, amended by Law No. 147 of 2019, states: “Lawyers have the right to review the lawsuits and judicial papers and access data related to the lawsuits they take over. All courts, prosecutors, police departments, notary offices and other bodies before which the lawyers exercise their duties shall facilitate their job and allow them to review the papers, obtain data, and attend the investigation with their clients, in accordance with the provisions of the law. Lawyers’ requests may not be rejected without a legal justification, and all that is going on in the session of investigation must be recorded in its minutes.” 5-Article 605 of the Public Prosecution’s instructions: “Lawyers must be allowed to review the investigation on the day prior to the interrogation or confrontation, unless the investigating prosecutor decides otherwise, in accordance with the interests of the investigation. Lawyers should be allowed full access to the investigation file, including all the procedures they indicate, even if they were taken in the absence of the accused. The person accused has the right to review the investigation before being questioned or confronted if he does not have a lawyer. In all cases, the person accused may not be separated from the lawyer thereof during the investigation.” 6-Article 125 of the Criminal Procedures Law stipulates: “The lawyer shall be allowed to inspect the investigation on the day prior to interrogation unless the judge decides otherwise. In all cases, the person accused may not be separated from the lawyer thereof during the investigation.” 7-Article 84 of the Criminal Procedures Law stipulates: “The defendant, victim, civil rights plaintiff, and responsible for civil rights may, during the investigation, request the issuance of copies of any type of document at their own expense, unless the investigation is conducted in the absence thereof based on a relevant decision.”