Egypt: Schoolteacher among latest victims in chilling wave of extrajudicial executions

Information gathered by Amnesty International suggests that Egyptian security forces forcibly disappeared and extrajudicially executed a schoolteacher who went missing after his arrest on 9 April, in the latest evidence of a chilling pattern of unlawful killings in the country.

Testimony from eyewitnesses, colleagues and family members, as well as documentary evidence, indicates that Mohamed Abdelsatar was arrested by security forces at the school where he worked in Behira Governorate. This evidence contradicts a statement from Egypt’s Ministry of Interior on 6 May which claims he was killed in an exchange of fire with security forces.

“The disappearance and death in custody of Mohamed Abdelsatar is the latest in a string of harrowing extrajudicial executions in Egypt. These unlawful killings are routinely celebrated as the successful ‘liquidation of terrorists’ by police, safe in the knowledge that they need not fear investigation for their crimes,” said Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director at Amnesty International.

“The Egyptian authorities must conduct a prompt, impartial and thorough investigation into the disappearance and death of Abdelsatar. They must bring those responsible to justice and signal an end to the green light they have given to security forces to commit horrific crimes without fear of punishment.”

Amnesty International interviewed two of Abdelsatar’s relatives and three work colleagues, and reviewed 10 documents including letters from his work place, the school attendance registry and complaints submitted by his relatives about his arrest and disappearance. The evidence gathered indicates that he was arrested from the al-Azhar affiliated Abdel Samie Saloma school on 9 April, before being forcibly disappeared and extrajudicially executed.

Abdelsatar’s brother, Ahmed, said the last time the family saw him was when he left for work the morning he was disappeared. They went to the local police station and the office of the public prosecution several times but received no further news of him until his death was announced by the interior ministry.

Despite the fact that the police had arrested Abdelsatar from his workplace, the ministry of interior claimed in its statement that Abdelsatar had been killed along with a second victim, Abdallah Ragab, in an exchange of fire with police in Tanta, Gharbia governorate, after resisting arrest.

The statement further claimed that the men belonged to the armed groups, “Hasm” and “Liwaa Al-Thawra” and were wanted on charges of assisting “terrorist groups”. Amnesty International is not aware of any evidence provided by the Ministry of Interior to support these claims.

Since 2015 the Egyptian authorities have made a series of similar announcements but have repeatedly failed to disclose the circumstances of these operations or the exact circumstances of the deaths.

Since 2015 the Egyptian authorities have made a series of similar announcements but have repeatedly failed to disclose the circumstances of these operations or the exact circumstances of the deaths.

One of Abdelsatar’s colleagues, who witnessed his arrest, told Amnesty International that he saw a red car stop in front of the school gates at 10:30am on 9 April. He saw several individuals in plainclothes inside the car. He said one man, who was wearing a suit, entered the school building and ordered Abdelsatar to get into the car. Officers from the National Security Agency regularly wear plain clothes and use civilian vehicles during their operations.  

Another colleague, who did not see Abdelsatar’s arrest, but was present at the school at the time, said several other employees and students told him they had also witnessed the arrest at around 10:30am.

Amnesty International also examined a series of documents, including letters sent by the director of the school to the Abu Elmatamer police station and the local al-Azhar  office, confirming his arrest from the school on that date and requesting further details.

Copies of the school’s attendance registry – which is signed by staff upon arrival and departure each day and was seen by Amnesty International – records Abdelsatar’s arrival at the school that day but not his departure. Instead, the comment “arrested from the school during working hours” was written beside his name.

The organisation also examined Abdelsatar’s teaching notebook, which is updated daily, and also confirms the last day he was present at the school was 9 April.

Ahmed Abdelsatar told Amnesty International that when he received his brother’s body from the morgue on 8 May, he saw large scratches on his right hand, and two gunshot wounds in his back.

“Abdelsatar was in police custody for at least 27 days while his family desperately searched for him only to find his bullet-ridden corpse in the morgue,” said Najia Bounaim.

“Such abhorrent crimes are clear evidence that Egypt’s security services currently have free rein to commit abuses with impunity. The authorities must put a halt to the recent surge in enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killings immediately.”

Amnesty International also examined complaints submitted by the family to the public prosecutor on 9 April, and to the Behira office of Al-Azhar and the local public prosecution office on 24 April. Although Ahmed Abdelsatar said the public prosecutor summoned him for questioning on 11 April, he said he heard nothing further about the investigation.

Amnesty International has documented several suspected cases of extrajudicial executions by security forces in 2017. Most recently it called for an investigation into the killing of four men on 20 and 23 June, who according to their families, were forcibly disappeared and tortured for up to four weeks. In another incident in April 2017, a leaked video analysed by Amnesty International showed military forces in North Sinai extrajudicially executing seven unarmed individuals, including a 17-year old child. On 13 January police extrajudicially executed six men in Sinai who had been held in incommunicado detention for up to three months.

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