Rights group urges Egypt to free detained mother of inmate

CAIRO — A leading international rights group on Tuesday urged Egyptian authorities to release a woman who was arrested apparently over publishing a letter from her imprisoned son in which he claims he was tortured and sexually assaulted behind bars.

Police last month raided the Cairo home of Hoda Abdel Hamid, and detained her along with her husband and daughter.

Human Rights Watch said in its statement that the arrest followed Abdel Hamid’s posting on Facebook her son’s account in which he describes being tied up by another inmate with the assistance of prison guards, stripped of his clothes and sexually assaulted.

Her 29-year-old son, Abdelrahman al-Showeikh, had passed the letter on to her when she recently visited him in prison. He has been detained in a maximum security prison in the southern province of Minya for the last 15 months.

“Instead of investigating Hoda Abdel Hamid’s report that her son had faced horrific torture and sexual assault in prison, Egyptian authorities are persecuting the messenger,” said Joe Stork, the New York-based group’s Mideast and North Africa director, adding that the case “strongly underscores the abysmal state of Egypt’s so-called justice system.”

Since the arrests were made, Abdel Hamid’s husband and daughter were freed but she remains in custody, HRW said, adding that the group has written to the government inquiring about the incident but has so far not received an answer.

There was no immediate comment from the authorities.

Since the military’s 2013 overthrow of an elected but divisive president — the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi — the Egyptian authorities have launched a wide crackdown on dissent. Thousands of Islamists have been jailed, along with secular activists and pro-democracy advocates. Tight control of the media has also been imposed and freedoms won in a 2011 uprising have been rolled back.