Egypt summons several Western ambassadors over criticism of rights lawyer's detention

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt summoned several western ambassadors on Sunday in protest against a statement criticizing the country’s detention of a human rights lawyer who was helping investigate the case of a murdered Italian student.

Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Britain and Canada issued a statement late on Friday critical of the detention of Ibrahim Metwaly, who was helping investigate the murder of Giulio Regeni. The PhD student’s body was discovered in a ditch on the outskirts of the Egyptian capital in 2016 showing signs of extensive torture.

An Egyptian Foreign Ministry statement said the German, Dutch and Italian ambassadors had been summoned and that procedures to summon the British and Canadian ambassadors were ongoing.

The ministry said the criticism from the five Western countries was “a blatant and unacceptable interference in domestic affairs and the work of the judiciary.

“It is unfortunate that such a statement would be issued from countries that call for respecting rule of law and the principles of separation of powers,” it said.

Metwaly founded the Association of the Families of the Disappeared after his son disappeared four years ago.

He was taken by airport security in September while heading to Geneva to attend a U.N. conference on enforced disappearances, members of his group said.

They later said a state prosecutor had ordered his detention.

Judicial sources told Reuters on Saturday that Metwaly was detained on charges of spreading false news and joining an illegal group, and that his pre-trial detention was in accordance with the law.

Rights activists say Egyptian authorities kidnap dissent and keep them in secret jails without charges. Egypt denies the accusations.

Reporting by Amina Ismail and Arwa Gaballa; editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Jason Neely