Human rights groups criticize widespread arrests in advance of protests in Egypt
Protesters run from tear gas in Cairo on April 25. (AFP/Mohamed El-Shahed)
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Seventeen human rights groups have denounced the mass arrests conducted by Egyptian security forces over the past few days ahead of planned anti-government protests on Monday, which is Sinai Liberation Day, saying that the NGOs would shoulder the burder of responsibility for the safety of protesters.
"Police arrested at least 100 persons over the past four days in eight provinces, including Cairo and Alexandria, which seems to be an attempt at intimidation to prevent protests on April 25," the groups said in a joint press release.
"Some people were arrested from cafes in downtown Cairo, their houses, metro stations or security checkpoints. The number is expected to increase within the coming few hours, according to lawyers."
Among the groups signing the statement were the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and the National Community for Human Rights and Law.
The statement added that Ahmed Abdullah, head of the board of trustees for the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, was arrested at his house in the 5th Settlement neighborhood on Monday. He was taken to New Cairo police station.
Socialist lawyer Haytham Mohammadein was also arrested from his house, according to the statement. An arrest warrant was also issued for lawyer Malek Adly and several others.
Meanwhile, the familiy homes of some activists, including Adly, and journalist Mahmoud al-Saqqa, were raided by police.
According to the statement, the Interior Ministry said it will deal strictly with any actions that violate public security, such as attacks against key public institutions or police facilities.
In a speech on Sunday, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said attempts to undermine security and stability would not be tolerated and that the police and military should be ready to react to any trouble.
"The Shorouk newspaper published a report on April 21 about a presidential meeting in which Sisi said he will not tolerate protests like the the so-called 'Friday of Land'. However, the presidency denied the news story the same day. A few hours later, the random arrests took place in downtown Cairo and Alexandria," the statement said.
The statement also called for canceling the Protest Law, which the NGOs described as "oppressive".
It also urged the Interior Ministry to stop violating the rights of people to gather peacefully, while calling on authorities to stop fabricating charges against activists.