Unconfirmed media reports on social networks said Sabry Al-Ghoul, a Sinai-based activist, died Tuesday morning after being detained for several hours by the military, at the headquarters of Battalion 101 in Al-Arish.
The office of the official army spokesperson Mohamed Samir denied in a statement to Daily News Egypt that he has been killed, and confirmed he was still in detention. The army also said that he was in the custody of the police and not the military, adding that all arrested members were handed over to the police.
Meanwhile, Sinai-based journalist Ahmed Abu Dera’a, who claimed he knew the man well, said that Al-Ghoul has long been targeted by security forces for adopting pro-Muslim Brotherhood speech and supporting their views.
“He was wanted. He was arrested last week by coincidence as he was sitting with another wanted suspect in his house when security forces stormed it. There was no referral to prosecution or questioning, but he was released two days ago,” he said.
Dera’a added that he had heard reports stating that the reason of death was circulatory failure, but that they were not credible.
Yet, Dera’a made a completely opposing claim to the army’s one by telling Daily News Egypt that it was not true that arrested civilians were handed over to the police, which falls under the interior ministry.
“It is actually quite the opposite. Even if the police arrests somebody, they are automatically delivered to Battalion 101 and it is the military prosecution that handles investigations,” Dera’a said.
At least 141 “terrorists” were killed in clashes with military forces in North Sinai throughout the month of May, the armed forces announced in a monthly report released Tuesday.
Al-Ghoul, a leading Muslim Brotherhood figure according to the army, was among 393 arrested either on suspicion of terrorism or wanted suspects.
Meanwhile, Al-Ghoul’s Facebook account has a picture of him kissing the head of an army soldier. Last January, Al-Ghoul condemned terrorism and the killing of all people, whether they were military men or civilians.
His online posts suggest he was not anti-military or government, yet he expressed several reservations on the state’ security solutions, such as inaccurate initial security inquiries which eventually led to arresting innocent people instead of real criminals.
Al-Ghoul was also strongly against the curfew hours imposed in North Sinai and a main advocator for a call that erupted last March for a general strike, which several political parties and civil organisations in Sinai also supported.
Al-Ghoul also argued that the state should consider countering extremist groups through ideology, because not “everything could be solved with arms”.
The Ministries of Health and Interior could not confirm the death report. An officer from the Ministry of Interior’s media office told Daily News Egypt they were going to check the news, but later calls to the ministry remained unanswered.