Egypt summons European envoys who criticised arrest of rights lawyer

Cairo (AFP) –


Egypt summoned Sunday the ambassadors of Germany, Italy and The Netherlands after they criticised the arrest of an Egyptian human rights lawyer opposed to enforced disappearances, the foreign ministry said.

The ministry added that they will also summon the ambassadors of the United Kingdom and Canada later in the day.

Authorities arrested in September Ibrahim Metwally, who is linked to the case involving murdered Italian student Giulio Regeni, as he was about to fly to Geneva for a conference on enforced disappearances.

The lawyer, who has founded the Association for the Families of the Disappeared, was detained at Cairo airport.

On Friday the embassies of Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Italy issued a joint statement saying they were "deeply concerned" over Metwally's "ongoing detention".

"We are concerned at the detention conditions that Ibrahim Metwally... is reportedly enduring, and continue to call for transparency on prison conditions in Egypt," said the statement.

"We call on the Egyptian authorities to ensure the freedom of civil society and the protection from torture that are enshrined in the Egyptian Constitution," it added.

The foreign ministry said the summons was aimed at expressing "Egypt's strong dissatisfaction with the statement's blatant and unacceptable interference in its internal affairs".

At the time of Metwally's arrest, prosecution officials had said Metwally was detained on suspicion of "dealing with foreign parties" and "spreading false news".

He was also accused of having set up an "illegal" group.

The foreign ministry also denied that "torture" was underway in Egyptian prisons.

Metwally had been in touch with the legal defence team of Regeni's family.

Regeni, a PhD student, went missing in Cairo on January 25, 2015 and his body was found days later bearing torture marks.

Egypt has faced accusations that one of its security services murdered the student who was researching trade unions -- a sensitive topic in the country -- but Cairo denied any such involvement.

Rights groups accuse the Egyptian government of arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances of dissidents that spiked after the military overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 and cracked down on his supporters.

The government disputes such allegations.