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U.N. calls for release of ex-aide to Egypt's Mursi, son jailed since 2013

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By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – An Egyptian Islamist father and his son have been detained unlawfully since 2013 part of the political persecution of ex-aides to deposed president Mohamed Mursi, and should be freed immediately and compensated, U.N. human rights experts said.

The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention posted its findings last week after examining the cases of former Mursi adviser Essam al-Haddad and his son Gihad. The panel said that Egyptian authorities had not responded to its inquiries.

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the former army chief-turned-president, overthrew Mursi, the first democratically elected head of state in Egypt’s modern history, in July 2013 and cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters.

A Cairo court overturned life sentences for espionage against Essam and Gihad in 2016. After retrials this year, both were acquitted in September, but Essam was sentenced to 10 years for membership in an illegal group, while Gihad was immediately charged with the same crime and remains in custody, according to a support group’s statement.

The Haddad cases “appear to fit the pattern of systematic, widespread and grave violations of fundamental human rights directed against the senior figures of the ousted government of Mohamed Mursi and their real or perceived fellow supporters,” the U.N. panel said in an opinion.

Their “deprivation of liberty is arbitrary,” it said, calling on Egyptian authorities to report back in six months on compliance with its findings, and adding: “Their trials should never have taken place.”

The panel said that prosecuting the pair under the anti-terrorism law for membership in the Brotherhood – which was banned in September 2013 and then designated as a terrorist group – did “not meet the principle of legality” as they were arrested prior.

Sisi, first elected president in 2014 and subsequently re-elected, says there are no political prisoners in Egypt. His supporters say the crackdown on dissent was necessary to stabilise Egypt after its 2011 uprising.

The father, and son, a former Brotherhood spokesman, have been held in indefinite solitary confinement since their arrest and denied medical care, according to the case brought for the family by Juan Mendez, a former U.N. torture investigator.

Children of high-profile Egyptian Islamists detained in the same prison as Mursi before his sudden death in June this year have voiced fears for their parents’ health.

Egyptian officials have previously denied mistreating prisoners or neglecting their health.

(Additional reporting by Amina Ismail in Cairo; Writing by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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