KUALA LUMPUR: An Australian woman joined human rights groups yesterday in condemning the "forced disappearance" of six Egyptians, including her husband, since April after being deported from Malaysia. They also demanded to know their whereabouts and fear the men - accused by Malaysian police of being members of a North African terror outfit - could be tortured. Rights groups have consistently criticised Egypt's ongoing crackdown but the government insists the measures are necessary to maintain stability and counter-terrorism.

KUALA LUMPUR: Australian Jodi Harris holds a photo of her missing Egyptian husband Abdallah Mahmoud yesterday. — AFP

Australian Jodi Harris, 23, told reporters that her 28-year-old Egyptian husband Abdallah Mahmoud who was a student in Malaysia was arrested by police on Feb 2. Malaysian police previously said six Egyptian men and a Tunisian man were detained in early February, alleging they planned to carry out terror attacks in other countries and subsequently deported them to their respective countries on March 5. But to date, no official response has been provided from Egyptian authorities regarding the six deported men.

"I want to know where is my husband. He is a victim of forced disappearance," she told reporters with tears rolling down her face. "He is not a member of Muslim Brotherhood or any terror organisations. But I know he will be tortured and ill-treated." Following the military ouster of president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, authorities have cracked down on dissent, targeting thousands of Islamists as well as secular activists. Egypt specifically outlawed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood deeming it a terror group in late 2013.

Harris said the Malaysian police are responsible for her husband's safety and demanded Egypt confirm they are holding him. "We want to know where is my husband and the others are," she said. This is the first time a family member has come forward publicly while others have remained silent due to fear of possible action by authorities, activists said. Meanwhile, Latheefa Koya, rights group Lawyers for Liberty's executive director said the new government of Malaysia has failed to uphold human rights. "This is an international embarrassment for Malaysia. Why the rush to hand them over to Egypt?" she said. - AFP