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Egyptian opposition TV host says family members disappeared

Moataz Matar says his two brothers and their families went missing after authorities raided his mother's house
Human rights groups have accused the Egyptian authorities of using forced disappearances to stifle political dissent (AFP/File photo)

A prominent Egyptian anti-government TV commentator has said that two of his brothers and their wives and children have disappeared in Cairo, suggesting that the authorities may be responsible for abducting his family members.

Moataz Matar, who works for the Turkey-based Egyptian opposition al-Shark TV channel, had helped launched a campaign voicing frustration with the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

On Tuesday, he said eight of his family members, including four children, went missing in Cairo.

The alleged disappearance occurred a day after security forces raided and searched the home of Matar's 66-year-old mother at dawn.

"After what happened to my mother yesterday... two of my brothers alongside their wives and four of their children have disappeared after leaving al-Ahly sports club in Nasr city less than an hour ago," Matar wrote on Twitter on Monday.

The TV host, who was sentenced to 10 years in absentia in 2015 for "inciting" against the government, had been urging activists to spread a message of solidarity by writing, "Be reassured you are not alone" (#اطمن_انت_مش_لوحدك) on paper money.

Many anti-government advocates from inside and outside Egypt took to social media to post photos of paper money with the phrase written on it.

The move prompted Egypt's Central Bank to ban banknotes with writing on them.

Translation: “You are not alone Moataz, I swear to god. More than 50 million Egyptians are with you. Don’t be scared”

Matar appeared defiant after announcing on air that his family members were disappeared. "Be sure that we will continue and proceed [with our activism]," he said. 

Egyptian opposition figures and rights campaigners came to Matar's defence on Tuesday.

Translation: "How did we hit rock bottom? The authorities respond to the calls of Moataz Matar for peaceful freedom of expression by terrifying his mother and kidnapping his brothers. It is unacceptable to trade the state that protects all of its children with a mafia that exacts revenge on its citizens ..."

Matar's campaign came in support of 34 year-old Ahmed Mohy, a lone protester who was arrested last week for holding up a sign that read “Step down Sisi” in Tahrir Square, the home of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising. Mohy published a video of himself whilst in the back of a police van. 

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Human rights groups have accused the Egyptian authorities of using forced disappearances to stifle political dissent and silence voices opposing the government.