EU says official in Egypt amid activist’s suspicious death

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

CAIRO (AP) – The European Union said Thursday that an EU human rights official visited Egypt this week amid an outcry over the mysterious death of an economic researcher who had been detained two months ago.

Ayman Hadhoud, a well-known Egyptian economic commentator, had disappeared two months. Earlier this week, the Interior Ministry said he had been detained in early February and died of heart failure while in custody.

According to the EU statement, the bloc’s Special Human Rights Representative Eamon Gilmore completed a three-day visit to Egypt on Wednesday during which he discussed allegations of mistreatment of detained people and other violations.

During the visit, Gilmore met with Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shokry and others, while also engaging with lawmakers, civil society organizations and human rights activists, according to the statement. He raised individual cases of allegedly mistreated detainees, and also sought clarification on Egypt’s commitment to review the death penalty for certain crimes, added the statement.

“I appreciated the frank and constructive engagement I have had in Egypt over the past three days,” he said. “It is my intention to continue the dialogue on all of the issues.”

Hadhoud, 48, was pronounced dead last week after he was brought to the government-run Abbasiya Mental Health Hospital in Cairo, the Interior Ministry said Sunday. The ministry said he has been detained Feb. 6 for allegedly attempting to break into an apartment in the upscale Zamalek district of Cairo and exhibited “irresponsible behavior.”

The statement was the first official account of what happened to Hadhoud since his disappearance.

On Tuesday, Egypt’s prosecutors announced that he had died of a sudden drop in blood pressure and heart failure.

Hadhoud’s brother, Omar, was quoted as saying that a police officer told him that he was detained by the National Security Agency.

Nine Egyptian human rights organizations issued a statement, alleging there was a criminal cause for Hadhoud’s death and saying they hold Egyptian authorities responsible.

The government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi – a U.S. ally with deep economic ties to European countries – has been relentlessly silencing dissenters and clamping down on independent organizations for years with arrests and restrictions.

Many of the top activists involved in the 2011 uprising in Egypt are now in prison, most of them arrested under a draconian law passed in 2013 that effectively bans all street protests.