Lawyers for the family of Ayman Hadhoud were finally allowed to review the case files in the investigation into the researcher’s death on Saturday, after weeks of demanding access to them as part of their appeal against the prosecution’s decision to close the case, lawyer Fatma Serag told Mada Masr.
However, Saturday’s development was not without continued restrictions in the case surrounding the suspicious death of the researcher while in police custody, as lawyers for the family were not allowed to make copies or have their phones or pens with them to take notes while reviewing the files.
The family’s appeal against the Public Prosecution’s decision to close the investigations will be decided on by the Cairo Criminal Court on Thursday.
Hadhoud was forcibly disappeared in February and is thought to have been held in custody for some time before authorities transferred him to the Abbasseya Psychiatric Hospital, where he grew seriously ill and died. His body was held for weeks before his family were informed of his passing.
The appeal came after the family’s lawyers learned on June 9 that the Public Prosecution had closed the investigation into the case on June 1 without informing them. The prosecutors concluded that there were no criminal suspicions around his death.
Still, Serag explained, the prosecution did not respond to the lawyers’ request to download the footage of a number of surveillance cameras located where Hadhoud was arrested on alleged robbery charges.
The prosecution also ignored the request to question Yassin Mostafa, the National Security Agency officer at the Amiriya Police Station who summoned Hadhoud’s brothers to inquire about his work and activities and informed them at the time that he had the researcher in custody.
Both Serag and Hadhoud’s brother, Omar, believe the prosecution’s investigations only sought to acquit the hospital of charges of medical negligence and the Interior Ministry of charges of “forced disappearance and torture leading to death.” Omar added to Mada Masr that the family is considering applying for a second autopsy, this time by a foreign party.
The family’s lawyers have repeatedly complained about the prosecution’s refusal to keep them informed about the investigation into Hadhoud’s death. “From May 19 to June 2, we submitted four requests to the prosecution to share the autopsy report and the case file with us. We received no response, until we were suddenly confronted with the decision to close the case,” Serag said.
Despite the requests, the lawyers learned from reading the case file on Saturday that the prosecution had resumed the investigation in May, before deciding to close it at the start of June, all without informing the family or lawyers, she explained.
The case file, according to the lawyer, included the report of the fact-finding commission composed of the doctors heading the mental health boards of the Khanka and Abbasseya hospitals to examine whether any violation had been committed during Hadhoud’s detention in the latter. The report concluded that the researcher was handled in a professional and ethical manner, and that there were no violations of the mental healthcare law or regulations.
The file also showed that the prosecution questioned the nurses who monitored Hadhoud’s condition on the day of his death — and three days before — as well as the doctor who received him at the forensic medicine department in Abbasseya when he was admitted to the hospital.
Serag said the investigation revealed that the Abbasseya hospital at first refused to receive Hadhoud due to a bruise and swelling on his right thigh and demanded that he be referred to an orthopedic doctor, after which the researcher was transferred to Al-Mounira General Hospital for an MRI. Prosecutors also questioned the orthopedist, according to the case file, which included the Al-Mounira hospital admittance form and the MRI request, but no copy of the scan.
The prosecution also sent a request to the Abbasseya hospital to determine whether they have surveillance cameras, according to the case papers that Serag reviewed. The hospital responded by saying the forensic department does not have cameras inside the buildings, in order to preserve patients’ privacy. There are external cameras, but their footage is erased every month.
The family’s lawyers had previously asked the prosecution to download the footage of the surveillance cameras on Maraachli Street in Zamalek neighborhood from 10:30 pm on February 5 until the next morning — the date and time of Hadhoud’s arrest — as well as the cameras at the Qasr al-Nil and Amiriya police stations, between February 6 and 17, in addition to the cameras in Abbasseya Psychiatric Hospital and its forensic medicine unit, to determine whether or not he was assaulted during his detention at the National Security Agency department in Amiriya, what health condition he was in before his admission to the Abbasseya hospital and the circumstances of his death.
For his part, Omar Hadhoud said his brother passed by nearly 60 surveillance cameras after his disappearance, adding that the Interior Ministry “claimed” the researcher was arrested while trying to break into an apartment and exhibiting “reckless behavior” on Maraachli Street in Zamalek. The location identified by the ministry includes a cafe that Hadhoud regularly frequented — a well-monitored location with more than 14 cameras around because it is surrounded by a number of embassies, according to Omar. Yet, the ministry did not deliver to the prosecution any footage of the moment Hadhoud was arrested.
The prosecution admitted in the investigations that it was unable to verify the incident leading to Hadhoud’s arrest, Omar noted, but still decided to close the investigation based on the autopsy report, which ignored the bruises and signs of assault on the researcher’s arms and head, which anyone who looked at the body could clearly see, he said.
Forensic experts reviewed leaked photographs of Hadhoud’s corpse in April on behalf of Amnesty International, which said at the time that the researcher’s body showed signs indicating he was tortured at some point prior to his death.
Hadhoud’s brother stressed his distrust of the progress of the case, noting that the family is considering applying for a second autopsy by a neutral foreign party. “My brother was beaten inside the National Security Agency department and breathed his last inside the Abbasseya hospital. That the investigative authorities are disregarding the surveillance cameras he passed from his disappearance until he was found at the Abbasseya mortuary only confirms this.”