Journalist Hassan al-Banna has been forcibly disappeared after being detained by the National Security Agency upon his arrival to Cairo airport on Sunday evening following his deportation to Egypt by Jordanian authorities, according to Banna’s brother Abdel Rahman Fares.
Banna — who spent over 2 years in remand detention before being released in May 2020 — boarded a flight from Cairo to Amman on Friday without issue. However, upon his arrival at Queen Alia International Airport, he was refused entry by Jordanian authorities, according to the director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Hossam Bahgat.
Bahgat said EIPR worked to try and prevent Banna’s deportation to Cairo and received assurances from several Jordanian government and intelligence officials that he would not be sent back to Egypt. “In the long hours that Banna spent at Amman airport — from around 10 pm on Friday until 6 pm on Sunday — Jordanian officials attempted several times to pressure Banna to accept deportation to Egypt,” Bahgat told Mada Masr. “This makes it likely that Egyptian security officials asked their Jordanian counterparts to deport Banna, although we don’t have confirmation of that.”
EIPR tried to help arrange for Banna to be sent to a third country instead of being deported back to Egypt, according to Bahgat, who said that Jordanian authorities agreed to allow him to do that as long as he booked his flight through a number of designated airlines. However, after obtaining an electronic visa to Kenya, one of the airlines refused to transport him there on the grounds that his visa was not valid, despite EIPR obtaining assurances from officials at Nairobi airport that Banna could travel there. Another airline refused to allow Banna to book a flight to Lebanon, giving similar reasons, despite the fact that Egyptian nationals do not require a visa to enter the country.
Bahgat said that it is not clear why Jordan prevented Banna from entering the country, speculating that it might be related to restrictions concerning the large number of Egyptian nationals informally working in the country. “In any case, Banna informed Jordanian authorities of his intention to visit a friend there but it appears they were not convinced of this claim,” Bahgat says.
Fares told Mada Masr that Banna arrived at Cairo airport with a security escort at exactly 6:30pm on Sunday evening. “We were in contact with him until 7:30 pm, right before he was called into the National Security Agency office in the airport,” he says.
Fares says his brother suffers from symptoms related to an irregular heart rate that require periodic examinations. “He suffers from PTSD [from his previous detention] and is taking medication prescribed by a psychiatrist on a regular basis,” Fares said. “I hold Egyptian and Jordanian authorities responsible for the safety of my brother. Security cooperation between these two parties cannot reach the point of committing the crime of deporting him in this way and preventing him from traveling to a third destination.”
Banna was arrested in February 2018 and forcibly disappeared before appearing before the State Security Prosecution 12 days later where he was ordered into remand detention on charges of joining a terrorist group and spreading false news. He remained imprisoned in remand detention until May 2020 when he was released without precautionary measures preventing him from traveling.