The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) has responded to concerns over the detention of elderly South African scholar, Sheikh Abdul Salam Jad Bassiouni, who was arrested at the Cairo International Airport upon his arrival in Egypt. Bassiouni, who holds dual Egyptian and South African citizenship, is reported to have visited the country to attend a family event. He has been held in an Egyptian prison since his arrest on the 2nd December 2014.
Dirco spokesperson, Nelson Kgwete, said the department became aware of the situation through the scholar’s son; one of two other passengers travelling with him at the time. He said the SA embassy in Cairo immediately got involved, interacting with authorities in Egypt in order to uncover the nature of the charges he is currently facing.
“We understand that he has appeared in court on more than one occasion, although the charges have not been formally put before him. We understand that he is yet to be formally charged,” he said.
The scholar has yet to be officially interrogated by either police or prosecutors.
Bassiouni currently remains in detention at the infamous Tora prison, which has previously housed former Egyptian presidents Hosni Mubarak, and Mohammed Morsi.
Kgwete sought to provide assurances that the South African government was making use of its diplomatic channels to raise the matter with Egyptian authorities in South Africa. This includes holding a meeting with the Egyptian ambassador to SA at its offices in Pretoria.
“We will continue to interact with our Egyptian counterparts on the case, and we will be ensuring that the case is handled in a matter that is transparent and that is fair,” he stated.
Sheikh Bassiouni has spent roughly 16 weeks under Egyptian detention, with some suggestions that authorities may suspect him of holding affiliations to the now banned Muslim Brotherhood organization. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)