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Egypt: Economist dies in government custody months after enforced disappearance

Ayman Muhammad Ali Hadhoud, a founder of Egypt's liberal Reform and Development Party, went missing on 5 February
Ayman Muhammad Ali Hadhoud disappeared on 5 February, according to family, who were informed of his death (photo credit: Twitter)

An Egyptian economist who has been missing since February has died in government custody, a local rights watchdog has said. 

Ayman Muhammad Ali Hadhoud died in recent days under "mysterious circumstances", the Egyptian Network for Human Rights reported, citing members of his family. 

Hadhoud, a founder of Egypt's liberal Reform and Development Party, went missing on 5 February. Officials informed the family of his death on Saturday, but did not provide further details.

Family was unable to confirm his arrest for days after he had been taken into custody by police in Amiriya, a suburb of Cairo where Hadhoud resided, according to his brother, Omar Hadhoud. 

"After two days, a police officer from the National Security Services came to us and told us that Ayman (was) being held with them," Omar told the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK.

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The family was then informed that Ayman had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had to be hospitalised for observation at a mental health facility in Abbasiya for 45 days. 

Omar and his family denied that Ayman had ever suffered from mental health issues. They said that they were refused visitation by the hospital, which allegedly told them they needed special permission from the public prosecutor's office. Requesting permission, the family said the prosecutor's office told them that it had no record of his arrest or case anywhere.

"After the end of the 45 days period, we went to the National Security Services again, and we were told that he had a case in the Zainhum Prosecution Complex, and we asked all the prosecutors there, but we have not found him," Omar said in an interview published on Saturday. 

Ayman worked as an economic advisor in the Reform and Development Party, and was nominated in the 2010 parliamentary elections. 

He is believed to have been one of at least 60,000 political prisoners estimated to have been jailed since Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took power in a coup in 2013. 

Sisi overthrew Mohamed Morsi, the country's first democratically elected president, who was affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Several high-level political prisoners have died in custody in recent years, including Morsi and former MP Essam el-Erian. Rights groups have said their deaths were most likely due to medical negligence and poor conditions in jails.

According to the Geneva-based Committee for Justice, since Sisi’s coup, at least 731 people have died in custody due to denial of healthcare.

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