Egypt's top prosecutor orders detention of woman over torture claims in BBC report

Ayat Al Tawy , Friday 2 Mar 2018

BBC report
A still image of Mona Mahmoud taken from the controversial BBC video report

An Egyptian woman who claimed during an interview with the BBC that her daughter had been tortured and disappeared by security services has been detained on the orders of prosecutor-general Nabil Sadek, state news agency MENA reported.

Mona Mahmoud will be held in custody for 15 days pending investigations into charges including "publishing and broadcasting false news that could harm the country's national interests" and joining an illegal group, a reference to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

The accusations stem from the woman's claims during an interview with the BBC that her daughter, Zubaida, had not been seen since April after being apprehended by security forces, and that she was tortured in detention during her previous stint in custody.

Mahmoud’s account was part of a short documentary and online report by the BBC on what it said were cases of enforced disappearances and torture carried out by the Egyptian security forces.

The report has angered Egyptian authorities and was described as containing "lies and allegations" by the Egyptian State Information Service, which oversees foreign media's access to the country and frequently comments on foreign reporting on Egypt.

The issue has sparked further controversy in Egypt after Zubaida was interviewed on a popular talk show in the days after the BBC broadcast, and denied being tortured or abducted.

The State Information Service has called on Egyptian officials and prominent individuals to boycott the BBC after the report until the public broadcaster issues an official apology.

The BBC said on Wednesday on its Arabic website that "the complaint about the documentary will be discussed with the Egyptian authorities in the coming days," adding that that it stands by the “integrity of our reporting teams.”

Earlier this week, Sadek in public statements tasked state prosecutors with taking legal action against media outlets publishing “false news” and “rumours."

A day before the mother's arrest, Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said defaming the army and the police amounts to "high treason."

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