September 25, 2019 / 1:50 PM / 2 months ago

More than 1,100 detained in Egypt after protests: rights monitors

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian authorities have detained more than 1,100 people, including several high-profile individuals, since the weekend, when protests were held in several cities calling on President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to quit, human rights monitors said on Wednesday.

Demonstrators rally against Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi outside the U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 24, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Those reported detained in the past two days include one of Egypt’s most prominent opposition figures, a former spokesman for a candidate in last year’s presidential election, and a renowned writer.

Defying a ban on protesting without a permit, hundreds took to the streets in Cairo and other cities on Friday in response to calls for protests against alleged government corruption. The protests continued in the Red Sea city of Suez on Saturday.

Gamal Eid, head of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, said his own group and two others — the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights and the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms — had jointly documented more than 1,100 arrests.

Several hundred of those are under investigation for charges including using social media to spread false news, undermining national security, joining a banned terrorist group, and protesting without a permit, defence lawyers say.

The interior ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.

Khaled Dawoud, a leading member of the Civil Democratic Movement, a coalition of opposition parties and figures, was detained late on Tuesday in Cairo, Eid said.

Also detained late on Tuesday was Hazem Hosny, a former spokesman for the short-lived 2018 presidential campaign of ex-military chief of staff Sami Anan, said Mustapha Kamel Al Sayyid, a fellow professor at Cairo University, citing Hosny’s family.

Sayyid said Hassan Nafaa, a prominent writer and analyst who also teaches at Cairo University, has been missing since 1500 GMT on Tuesday, citing Nafaa’s family.

Security forces have stepped up their presence in main squares in major cities and have been conducting spot checks of mobile phones for political content.

Sisi came to power after leading the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi, Egypt’s first democratically elected leader, following mass protests against him in 2013.

Protests in Egypt have been rare under Sisi, who has overseen a broad crackdown on dissent that rights activists say is the most severe in the country’s modern history.

Sisi’s supporters say tough measures were necessary to stabilise Egypt after the turmoil that followed the 2011 uprising that toppled former strongman Hosni Mubarak.

The protests have rattled financial markets, with the Egyptian stock market’s main index falling nearly 11% in trading between Sunday and Tuesday.

On Wednesday morning, the Arabic hashtag “Sisi is not my president” was trending with more than 40,000 tweets. Several Twitter hashtags have been used to rally support for the protests, while pro-Sisi hashtags have also appeared.

The protests took place after a former civilian contractor for the military, Mohamed Ali, posted a series of videos accusing Sisi and the military of corruption. Sisi dismissed the allegations as “lies and slander”.

Ali has called for mass protests on Friday.

Reporting by Yousef Saba and Amina Ismail; Editing by Aidan Lewis and Giles Elgood

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