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Human Rights Watch decries arbitrary arrest of two women in Egypt

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The combo photo shows Marwa Arafa, left, and Kholoud Said.

Human Rights Watch has urged the Egyptian authorities to release two translators, women who were arbitrarily arrested and “forcibly disappeared” last week.

According to the HRW, security forces arrested Marwa Arafa, 27, and Kholoud Said, 35, at their homes on April 20 and 21, respectively. They are held in undisclosed locations.

“Egyptian security forces arbitrarily arrested and forcibly disappeared” the two women and “brought vague and apparently abusive charges against one of them,” the New York-based organization said.

It called on the Egyptian authorities to “fully disclose the whereabouts of the women and release them or present evidence to judicial authorities of criminal wrongdoing.”

Said was seen by lawyers at the State Security Prosecution building in a Cairo suburb on Tuesday, the HRW said.

The group added that she was interrogated by prosecutors over charges of "joining a terrorist group" and "spreading false news" in the apparently abusive case known as the "Coronavirus Case" which is brought against political activists, lawyers and social media users, mostly for criticizing the government's response to the epidemic.

Amr Magdi, a Middle East and North Africa researcher at the HRW, said the arrests of Arafa and Said came with “no warrants, no explanations.”

"This is the behavior of a security establishment run amok," he added.

On Tuesday, President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi extended a long-running state of emergency for three months, citing health and security concerns as the country combats the coronavirus pandemic.

According to official figures, the country has more than 5,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 350 deaths.

The state of emergency grants police broad powers of arrest and curtails constitutional rights such as freedom of speech and assembly.

Sisi has long been facing international condemnation for a crackdown on civil society groups since he took power in 2014, a year after a military coup spearheaded by him toppled the country’s first ever democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi.

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