The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today called on the authorities in Egypt to release journalist Hassan El-Kabany, who has been missing for over a week after attending a meeting at the headquarters of the country’s security services.

El-Kabany, a freelance journalist and press freedom advocate who has been imprisoned in the past for his criticism of the Egyptian regime, disappeared after entering the National Security Agency headquarters in Cairo on the evening of Tuesday, September 17.

According to reports, El-Kabany had been returning home from a weekly probation meeting at court when he received a phone call informing him that security services had information about the status of his wife, Aya Alaa, who has been in prison for the last two months, and would like to meet him.

Before entering the security services building, he contacted colleagues to inform them of his plans to attend the meeting. Since then El-Kabany has been missing.

Eight days later no one has been able to get any information about his whereabouts, Ahmed El-Attar, a rights activist working for the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms, told IPI.

“We have absolutely no idea where he is or what condition he is in”, El-Attar said. “Hassan’s family and friends are now very concerned for his safety.”

“Neither the police nor the government have made any statement about his status. All requests for information have been ignored.”

El-Attar believes the prospect of information about the journalist’s wife was used to lure him to the building, where he was then detained.

His family now fears he will have been interrogated and tortured in one of Egypt’s notorious prison facilities, where detainees will be kept blindfolded in appalling conditions for weeks, he added. Forced disappearances are carried out systematically by Egyptian security forces.

“It’s clear this forced disappearance is part of a wider crackdown by security forces on figures in Egypt on journalists, press freedom advocates and others deemed a threat to the government”, IPI Director of Advocacy Ravi R. Prasad said. “We call on the Egyptian authorities to release Hassan and all other journalists like him.”

Previous persecution

El-Kabany was previously arrested in January 2015 and charged with espionage, joining an illegal group, and disseminating false information to disturb public security and peace.

At the time he had been working as a blogger and reporter for a number of news websites, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Gate site.

He was detained in Cairo’s infamous Tora Prison, where he was tortured with electric shocks and denied medical care. After rights groups appealed to the U.N. Special Rapporteur, he was released on probation in November 2018.

Since then he has not been able to work and has been monitored by security services, El-Attar said.

In June 2019, El-Kabany’s wife was arrested for contact she had had with foreign media in 2017 while trying to raise awareness about her husband’s imprisonment.

Over three dozen journalists are currently jailed in Egypt, including Al Sayed Mohamed Omar Toufic, also known as Ismail AlexandraniMoataz Wadnan and Mahmoud Hussein of Al Jazeera.

According to reports, another journalist, Sayed Abdella, was arrested on Sunday September 22 after a raid on his family home in Suez.

Egypt has systematically denied journalists rights to due process and a fair trial, holding them for years without official charges and denying them the right to legal counsel.