Abdullah’s Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms has acted as legal counsel to family of murdered Italian Giulio Regeni.
The human rights activist Ahmad Abdullah has been freed after almost 140 days in pre-trial detention in Egypt.
Abdullah, the head of the board of trustees of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), was arrested at his home prior to planned protests against the transfer of two islands to Saudi Arabia on the 25 April. He remains accused of various charges that could still result in him being jailed for life. They include the incitement of violence, calls to overthrow the regime and belonging to a terrorist group.
Mohammed Lotfy, the executive director of ECRF, said that while Abdullah’s release was a positive development, “it should be followed by dropping all trumped up charges brought against him”. Abdullah is currently out on bail.
ECRF tracks forced disappearances in Egypt, which have spiked since Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi came to power in 2013. Lawyers connected to ECRF are also acting as the Egyptian legal counsel for the family of murdered Italian Giulio Regeni, whose body bearing signs of torture was found on a desert road outside Cairo in early February.
Egyptian police ’investigated’ Giulio Regeni days before his murder
“Solidarity with Ahmad Abdullah ... has contributed to his liberation, in particular from the family of Giulio Regeni,” said Lotfy. “ECRF will continue to fight for the truth for Giulio Regeni and in uncovering the fate of Egyptians who fall victim to forced disappearances.”
Abdullah’s release comes days after Egyptian investigators visited Rome to discuss developments in the Regeni case. Egypt’s prosecutor general, Nabil Sadek, stated following the meeting that police had investigated a tip from the head of the Egyptian street vendors union concerning Regeni over a period of three days in January, in the weeks prior to the 28-year-old’s disappearance.
Mohammed Abdullah, the head of the union, was later quoted in local media reports as denying that he tipped off the police. Reached by phone by the Guardian, he explained that “Regeni spoke to me about things which I thought were of concern to national security”. Asked what these things were, he repeatedly said “I can’t say”, as the case is currently with the prosecutor’s office.
Mohammed Abdullah is one of five individuals whose phone records were handed to Italian officials in May this year, part of a requested package of call records and CCTV footage of the area where Regeni disappeared.
The Italian news agency ANSA reported that the Egyptians presented “the ample, complete and in-depth report on an examination of cellphone traffic covering the areas of [Regeni’s] disappearance [on 25 January] and the discovery of his body” at this latest meeting. Egypt previously termed the request for such records “unconstitutional”.
The case led to fraught relations between the two nations, with Italy recalling its ambassador to Egypt in April.