A SOUTH African Muslim cleric has been held in a notorious Egyptian political prison without charge for 180 days.
Sheik Abdul Bassiouni’s detention has threatened to result into a diplomatic row between South Africa and Egypt, with Deputy Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Luwellyn Landers raising the issue with Egypt’s ambassador to South Africa.
The Bassiouni family, whose members have dual South African and Egyptian citizenship, has lived in South Africa since 1990.
Bassiouni, 65, was detained in December when he arrived in Cairo with his family for his daughter’s engagement party.
Bassiouni — who has established technical colleges for the underprivileged in South Africa — and his son, Bilal, were separated from the rest of the family and put into cells at Cairo International Airport.
Bilal was released after hours of interrogation. He was repeatedly questioned about his affiliation to the banned Muslim Brotherhood.
Promised that Abdul Bassiouni would also be released, the family waited in vain, unaware that he had been moved to Tora prison.
Airport security officials eventually told them that Bassiouni had been taken to a detention centre but refused to say where.
For five days the family searched for him. They learned of his whereabouts through an anonymous tip.
Bilal said that when the family went to the prison they were denied access to Bassiouni.
“We were told to wait 15 days because prisoners under interrogation were not allowed visitors.”
He said the Egyptian authorities were using new laws aimed at cracking down on Muslim Brotherhood supporters to keep his father detained without trial.
“When the 15 days lapse, instead of charging or releasing prisoners they evoke this law again, keeping them detained without charge for another 15 days,” he said.
Bassiouni said his mother and brother had visited his father.
“We are worried about him. He has not had his diabetes and bloodpressure medications. He has badly injured his back and has not received medical attention.”
Even South African embassy diplomats, he said, had been denied access or information about his father’s condition, or the reasons for his detention.
“First they were told no such prisoner was in the system. Only after the acting ambassador told them where he was held did they acknowledge his detention.”
Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesman Nelson Kgwete denied that diplomatic relations between Egypt and South Africa were strained.
He said deputy minister Landers had met the Egyptian ambassador as part of diplomatic efforts relating to Bassiouni’s detention.
“Landers raised concerns that Bassiouni is being detained without trial,” Kgwete said.
• The Times (South Africa)
• 2 Jun 2015
• Written by: GRAEME HOSKEN
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