Middle East

Egypt to shut prominent centre that documents torture

Policeman stands guard as they patrol a street on the anniversary of the 2011 uprising Image copyright AP
Image caption Egypt has stepped up a crackdown on dissent, curbing protests and public gatherings

Egypt has ordered the closure of the country's last remaining centre for the treatment and documentation of alleged torture victims.

Officials have said the prominent El Nadeem centre had breached unspecified health ministry regulations.

But the centre's director said the decision was "politically motivated".

Rights groups have criticised Egypt's government for its crackdown on dissent, and there has been a surge in allegations of torture by officials.

The Cairo-based El Nadeem centre has operated since 1993, providing support and counselling to victims of torture.

Aida Seif al-Dawla, the organisation's director, said the group had been given until Monday to close but had vowed to defy the order.

"Unless they arrest us all, we will continue to work," she told the BBC.

Amnesty International said the move against the El Nadeem centre appears to be an "extension of the ongoing crackdown on human rights activists in Egypt".

The BBC's Orla Guerin in Cairo says the move comes at a time when enforced disappearances are on the rise, and amid growing concern about allegations of torture by the police and intelligence services.

Human rights groups accuse security forces of torturing detainees and of detaining suspected activists or militant Islamists without reporting their arrests, allegations rejected by the government.

Just two weeks ago, the mutilated corpse of Italian student Guilio Regeni was found by a roadside, amid allegations that he had been kidnapped by security services, which Cairo denied.

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi led the military's overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013, following mass protests.