A leading human rights advocacy group is urging Egyptian authorities to release the autopsy report and investigate the suspicious death of an economic researcher detained two months ago.
Human Rights Watch said the autopsy analysis and photos of Ayman Hadhood’s body should be made public and reviewed by independent forensic experts to determine whether he was tortured in custody, according to a statement released late Wednesday.
It comes after Egyptian prosecutors said Monday that the autopsy report ruled out that Hadhoud was subjected to torture or ill-treatment. They said he had suffered from a chronic heart condition that caused his heart and his respiratory system to stop abruptly.
“Ayman Hadhoud’s suspicious death in custody requires a fully independent, impartial, and thorough investigation, starting with an independent review of the autopsy results,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Clearly the Egyptian authorities committed grave abuses against Hadhoud by subjecting him to a prolonged enforced disappearance.”
Hadhoud, 48, was pronounced dead earlier this month after he was brought to the government-run Abbasiya Mental Health Hospital in Cairo, according to the Interior Ministry. The ministry said he has been detained Feb. 6 for allegedly attempting to break into an apartment in the upscale Zamalek district of Cairo and exhibited “irresponsible behavior.”
The statement was the first official account of what happened to Hadhoud, a critic of the government’s economic policies, since his disappearance.
Activists and academics have taken to social media to denounce Hadhoud’s death and many have called for an investigation. Eventually, prosecutors ordered a forensic autopsy of his body to determine the cause of death.
Hadhoud’s family members and friends who went to the building where the autopsy took place alleged that the physician conducting the procedure rejected requests for independent observers, the HRW said.
The group also quoted a brother, who had seen the body, as saying that Hadhoud had facial bruises and a cracked skull.
Torture and abuse by police are not unusual in Egypt. In 2016, Giulio Regeni, an Italian doctoral student, was found dead the side of a Cairo road. His body had been brutalized, raising suspicions of police involvement. Italy accused police officers of killing him, a charge that Egypt denied.