Turkey deports 29-year-old Egyptian who faces death penalty at home

Mohamed Abdelhafiz

Turkish authorities in January deported a 29-year-old Egyptian engineer, Mohamed Abdelhafiz, who is reportedly a member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, to his home country.

Abdelhafiz was reportedly arrested when he arrived in Cairo on January 17 and now is held in pretrial detention. According to Egyptian authorities, Abdelhafiz is accused of involvement in a car bomb attack that killed Egyptian state prosecutor Hisham Barakat in June 2015. A court in Cairo in 2017 sought the death penalty for 30 people who were allegedly involved in the assassination. 

Many people expressed outrage when photos of Abdelhafiz, who is seen handcuffed aboard a Turkish Airlines flight to Cairo, went viral on Monday in Turkey, which is home to thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members in exile.

The Turkish government on Tuesday removed eight police officers from the passport control branch of the security directorate at Istanbul Ataturk Airport, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported, in a move to placate furious Islamists and Muslim Brotherhood members in Turkey.

Experts say police officers are not authorized to make a decision on the deportation of a Muslim Brotherhood member who arrives in Turkey given the open door policy of the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to opponents of Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

According to the MEE news outlet, a Turkish official who spoke on condition of anonymity said airport authorities offered to send Abdelhafiz to Mogadishu instead of Cairo but that he refused. 

The Rabia gesture has been a trademark of Erdoğan since 2013 after the government of the Muslim Brotherhood was toppled by a military coup in Egypt. Islamists in Egypt used the gesture during protests against the coup.

The Muslim Brotherhood is believed to be one of the main conduits for Erdoğan in reaching out to Muslim communities in the Middle East as well as in the US and in posing a menace to regimes that don’t support his agenda in the region.

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