Amnesty Condemns Egypt 'Biggest Crackdown' on Protesters

Published October 3rd, 2019 - 06:37 GMT
Supporters of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi rally near the Unknown Soldier Memorial in the eastern Nasr City district of Egypt's capital Cairo on September 27, 2019. (AFP/ File Photo)
Supporters of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi rally near the Unknown Soldier Memorial in the eastern Nasr City district of Egypt's capital Cairo on September 27, 2019. (AFP/ File Photo)

Amnesty International has condemned Egyptian authorities for launching the "biggest crackdown" on dissent since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi seized power in a coup six years ago.

More than 2,300 people have been detained over the past few weeks as Sisi responds to unprecdented protests against his regime.

At least 111 children, aged between 11 and 17, are among those detained, according to Belady for Rights and Freedoms.

At least 69 of them are facing charges of "membership in a terrorist group" and "misusing social media", despite many of them not owning mobile phones.

Demonstrations broke out last month when a series of videos published by a former regime insider went viral.

In the broadcasts, former military contractor Mohamed Ali alleged widespread corruption by Sisi and the military, who he accused of siphoning off millions of dollars of public funds to build luxury palaces and villas.

Observers are unsure whether demonstrators will return to the streets this Friday for the third consecutive week.

Repressive measures, including thousands of arrests and the widespread presence of security forces, kept many off the streets last week.

Amnesty has condemned the arrests, which it says are "arbitary" and come as part of Sisi's "largest crackdown" on dissent since coming to power in 2013.

The majority of those detained are being investigated as part of one mass criminal case.

If referred to trial, Amnesty said it would be the "largest protest-related criminal case" in Egyptian history.

"Sisi's government has orchestrated this crackdown to crush the slightest sign of dissent and silence every government critic. The wave of unprecedented mass arrests, which include many who were not even involved in the protests, sends a clear message - anyone perceived to pose a threat to Sisi's government will be crushed," Najia Bounaim, Amnesty's North Africa Campaigns Director, said in a statement on Thursday.

"Participating in a peaceful protest is not a crime. The Egyptian authorities' draconian response to the peaceful demonstrations illustrates their utter contempt for human rights and displays a flagrant disregard for the rights of peaceful protest and freedom of expression," she said.

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Egypt's public prosecutor last week claimed that no more than 1,000 people had been referred to the prosecution over their involvement in the protests, but the Egyptian Centre for Social and Economic Rights (ECSER) has documented more than 2,300 arrests.

At least 10 journalists have been detained over the past weeks, Amnesty said.

Most of the journalists work for pro-government media outlets.

Dozens of opposition figures - including prominent academics Hazem Hosny and Hassan Nafaa, and politician Khaled Daoud - have also been arrested.

Human rights activist Alaa Abdelfattah was re-arrested last week amid the crackdown.

Abdelfattah was released after five years in prison earlier this year but forced to spend each night in a jail cell as part of his probation.

When his lawyer Mohamed el-Baqer entered Egypt's Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) building to represent the detained activist, Baqer was also arrested.

"People from alll walks of life have come under attack," Bounaim said. "Lawyers, politicians and journalists and others must be allowed to carry out their work freely and voice their opinions without facing any reprisals."

At least seven foreign citizens have also been swept up in the mass arrest campaign.

This article has been adapted from its original source.

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