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Egypt Abducts and Tortures Hundreds, Amnesty Report Says

The report said enforced disappearances had spiked, with an average of three or four people reported disappeared every day.

REUTERS – Egyptian security agents have abducted and tortured "at least several hundred people," some as young as 14, in an unprecedented spike in enforced disappearances aimed at silencing opponents, Amnesty International asserted in a report published on Wednesday.

The report, based on 70 interviews with former detainees, families of detainees, lawyers and others, said enforced disappearances had spiked since the appointment of Interior Minister Magdi Abdel Ghaffar in early 2015, with an average of three or four people reported disappeared every day.

"Enforced disappearance has become a key instrument of state policy in Egypt. Anyone who dares to speak out is at risk, with counter-terrorism being used as an excuse to abduct, interrogate and torture people who challenge the authorities," Philip Luther, director of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa Programme, said in a statement that accompanied the report.

Amnesty said the nature of the enforced disappearances made it difficult to give a precise number, but that reports by Egyptian non-governmental organisations and rights groups indicated there had been "at least several hundred cases" since the beginning of 2015.

It counted cases where individuals were arrested by state agents and held for at least 48 hours without referral to the prosecution and where authorities denied they were in custody when asked by families.

The foreign ministry said in a statement that Amnesty reports on Egypt were biased, politically-motivated and aimed to harm its image. It declined to comment on specific accusations.

An interior ministry official who declined to be named said there was "no such thing as enforced disappearances" in Egypt. He said the ministry had looked into all suspected cases and in each instance had proven that the individual in question was remanded in custody on the orders of a prosecutor.

The report features the detailed cases of 17 people subjected to enforced disappearance, held incommunicado for periods ranging from several days to seven months without access to their lawyers or families.

Amnesty said many of those forcibly disappeared were held at Lazoughly, a compound run by Egypt's Homeland Security.

There, detainees are subjected to electric shocks, violence and sexual abuse to extract confessions, the report said, citing testimonies from at least seven named victims or their families.

Amnesty said it found similarities between wounds sustained by Giulio Regeni, an Italian student who disappeared in Cairo on January 25 and whose body was found nine days later showing signs of extensive torture, and those that result from the methods of torture it said Egyptian security forces use when interrogating suspects.

Egyptian intelligence officials and police sources have told Reuters that on the day Regeni vanished, he was detained by police and then transferred to a compound run by Homeland Security. The police and Interior Ministry deny they were involved and say they never held Regeni.

The Interior Ministry has also said cases of police abuse were isolated and promised to investigate any allegations.

The report also accused Egypt's public prosecution of failing to properly investigate torture allegations and charging defendants based on confessions extracted under duress.

A judicial official who declined to be named as he was not authorized to speak to the media said prosecutors conducted random inspections of police compounds to ensure detainees were being held lawfully and this was not reflected in the report.

"All complaints received by the public prosecution are investigated," the official said.Schermata 2016 07 14 alle 09.50.31

Video of the Week New Clashes Erupt Between Israeli Security Forces, Muslim Worshippers

Temple Mount temporarily closed to Jewish visitors after clashes with police

The Temple Mount was temporarily closed to Jewish visitors on Wednesday at the order of Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevy after Jews broke visitation rules at the holy site, police said. The Jewish visitors were expelled from the compound for bringing sacred books to the Mount and trying to pray there. After one of the individuals was cautioned, another took out a holy book, and the group was expelled. Meanwhile, renewed clashes erupted between protesters and Israeli security forces near the Lion's Gate in the Old City, where police used stun grenades against the demonstrators. A regular dynamic has developed involving clashes between Palestinians and Israel Police over the past several days near the Lion's Gate. Dozens of Palestinians are present at the site on a regular basis, urging devotion to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and condemning Israel. During Muslim prayer times, particularly the midday and nighttime prayers, hundreds and sometimes even thousands have been gathering there.

There have been outbreaks of violence during these periods, including stone-throwing or physical confrontations with the police. In most of these incidents, the police have been using stun grenades and sponge-tipped bullets to disperse the crowds. In a number of cases, journalists in the area have also suffered violence at the hands of the police. On Tuesday, Hassan Shaalan, a reporter for the Ynet news website, was struck by a policeman even after he identified himself as a member of the press. A group of Jerusalem-based journalists released a statement of condemnation over the incident and called on the police to permit reporters to do their jobs. The Jerusalem Police responded: "This involved an incident that took place in the course of violent disturbances of the peace that occurred in Jerusalem while the police were acting to remove the demonstrators from the street after some of them refused to vacate. The forces working on the scene are under constant threat to their lives. http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.802141

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