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Egyptian rights advocate advising Regeni's family arrested

Controversy over the Italian student's killing continues as the Egyptian president calls on UK police probe death of young Egyptian in London
Ahmed Abdullah is head of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, a legal NGO, was arrested after assisting the Regeni family with inquiries into their son's death (April 6/Facebook)

Egyptian police have arrested a human rights advocate who has been advising the family of Giulio Regeni, an Italian PhD student found tortured to death near Cairo in February.

Ahmed Abdullah, who is head of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, had been assisting Regeni’s family during ongoing attempts to discover who killed the researcher. He was arrested from his home at dawn on Tuesday morning.

The prosecutor general's office in eastern Cairo said on Wednesday afternoon that Abdullah's detention will be extended for a further 15 days.

The office also said that Abdullah's arrest is not connected to his work on the controversial case, but that he is being investigated for violating Egypt’s strict protest law, which criminalises any demonstrations that take place without police permission.

A colleague of Abdullah's, however, said that he faces 10 separate charges.

Duaa Mustafa, who works at the same NGO as Abdullah, told a press conference in Cairo on Tuesday night that the charges include belonging to a terrorist organisation, “spreading false news, statements and rumours aimed at interfering with the regime” and “inflicting damage on the people and the public interest”.

Regeni’s family have called for Abdullah's release, saying they are “saddened” by his arrest.

Italian state television on Tuesday carried a statement from Regeni’s parents, saying Abdullah had been helping them navigate legal issues surrounding the investigations into their son’s killing.

As the investigation continues, the UK government on Tuesday said it is “disappointed by the limited progress” made by investigations into the killing.

The official comments came in response to a public petition, signed by more than 11,000 people as of Wednesday afternoon, urging the UK government to ensure that "a credible investigation" into Regeni's killing is carried out.

A government spokesman said the UK is “aware of allegations that the Egyptian security forces were responsible for the murder,” but stressed that these remain unproven.

Sisi raises concern over London death of Egyptian

The statement came as Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi publicly urged the British police to “intensify” their investigations after a young Egyptian man was killed in London earlier this week.

The 21-year-old, named in Egypt as Adel Habib Michael, died after being caught  in a blaze at a garage in the west London suburb of Southall in the early hours of Monday morning.

In a statement on his official Facebook page on Tuesday night, Sisi sent his condolences to the young man's family, and called on British authorities to “take the necessary care and intensify their inquiries and efforts to lift the mystery surrounding this event”.

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police told Middle East Eye that they are awaiting post-mortem results and have yet to formally identify the victim.

The spokesperson said the police are "aware of reports" that the dead man is an Egyptian national, confirming that a man in his twenties had been arrested on suspicion of arson, and has been released on bail until a date in mid-June.