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Mother cited in BBC report on torture and police abuse is arrested

The broadcast has dominated Egypt’s media over recent days, with pro-government commentators branding it as another attempt to defame the country.

A mother who accused Egyptian police of torturing her daughter and being behind her disappearance in a BBC report which angered authorities has been arrested.

A human rights lawyer who initially reported the detention of Mona Mahmoud Mohammed, known as Oum Zubeida, has now gone missing.

Ezzat Ghoneim, of the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms, reported on social media that Ms Mohamed had been arrested on Wednesday.

His organisation now says Mr Ghoneim himself disappeared on his way home on Thursday evening and has not been heard of since.

Both Mr Ezzat’s and Ms Mohamed’s mobile phones are currently switched off.

The BBC report included interviews with activists and other individuals describing police abuses.

It has dominated Egypt’s media over recent days, with pro-government commentators branding it as another attempt to defame the country.

The public prosecutor ordered the detention of Ms Mohammed for 15 days pending investigations into her statements made to the BBC.

The moves are the latest episode in Egypt’s ongoing assault on free speech and the media, which most recently has focused on foreign journalists and those who work with them. Both groups are regularly demonised in state and private media.

Meanwhile, Mr Ghoneim “has not been seen or heard of” since going missing on Thursday evening, according to the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms.

The group has started an online campaign seeking information about the lawyer, but assumes he has been arrested. Mr Ghoneim has long supported victims of alleged police torture, the disappeared, and their families in Egypt.

The group’s Ahmed el-Attar said: “It’s a shame since all he’s been doing is helping Egyptians understand their legal rights.”

The state-run news agency MENA reported that Ms Mohammed is facing an array of charges, including spreading false news with the intent to harm the national interest, as well as belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt has designated as a terrorist organisation.

In the BBC report, entitled The Shadow Over Egypt, Ms Mohammed claimed authorities had tortured and raped her daughter in detention, then released her before capturing her again a year ago. She has been held incommunicado since, Ms Mohamed said.

After the documentary aired, however, Ms Mohamed’s daughter appeared on pro-government media, saying she was free and had been out of touch for unexplained personal reasons. The mother then told foreign-based opposition media that she thought her daughter spoke under duress.

The BBC in its report said it gave Egyptian authorities ample time to respond to the allegations it was making, but was met with silence. Egyptian authorities rarely comment when contacted by journalists, although their official position is that torture is not systematic.

Rights groups and doctors who follow up on such cases, however, have said otherwise.

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