Egypt: Mass arrests ahead of Friday protests demanding that Sisi steps down

The arrest campaign by Egyptian security forces against political activists, party and trade union leaders, and opposition forces has continued in a number of Egyptian governorates and cities, coinciding with calls to take to the streets and public squares in a large rally expected to reach one million protesters, on Friday 27 September, to demand the overthrow of the regime of General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

The Egyptian authorities have launched a mass arrest campaign as Sisi attempts to crackdown on calls for his ousting. At least 1,300 Egyptians have been detained since Friday as Cairo continues its crackdown on protests against the rule of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Egyptian security forces on Tuesday night arrested Hazem Hosny, a prominent professor of political science at Cairo University, at his home in Giza.

Hosny formerly acted as an advisor to Sami Anan, a former general who was detained by Egypt’s military in 2018 just days after announcing his intention to run against Sisi in that year’s presidential elections.

The family of fellow political scientist Hassan Nafaa said they also feared his arrest after losing contact with the outspoken academic hours before Hosny’s detention.

Both professors have spoken out in support of the protests on social media in recent days.

The defense committee for Hosny on Wednesday urged the professor’s release, citing his poor health.

Hosny is among several prominent opposition figures detained in recent days as Sisi’s regime moves to crackdown on dissent amid calls for a “million-man” protest on Friday.

At least 16 members of the opposition Independence Party were arrested on Tuesday.

The party had earlier issued a public call for Egyptians to participate in the protests, which erupted on Friday last week in the capital Cairo and other cities.

Thousands of demonstrators reportedly took to the streets on Friday and Saturday as part of an unprecedented wave of dissent – more easily expressed online – sparked by allegations of corruption in Sisi’s government and military.

Videos published by former government contractor Mohamed Ali went viral earlier this month.

The self-exiled former regime insider alleges that Sisi and the military appropriated millions of dollors of public funds to build several lavish villas and a colossal presidential palace. Meantime, as much as 60 percent of the Egyptian population lives in poverty.

Some 1,300 people have been detained so far

Some 1,300 people have been detained so far since the protests began, according to the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights. Security forces have also detained the deputy heads of both the Communist and Dignity parties.

While Cairo has launched an internet blackout targeting social media sites, limiting the information available to reporters outside of the country, the spread of reported arrests in provinces across Egypt indicates that the protests have also taken place outside of major cities.

More than 300 detainees have appeared so far before the courts, all of them sentenced to 15 days in prison each to be interrogated regarding their participation in demonstrations.

Among those charged on Tuesday was award-winning human rights lawyer Mahinour El-Massry, who was arrested on Sunday after attending an investigation of several of those arrested during the demonstrations.

Others have found themselves levied with additional charges, including membership in a terrorist group – likely a reference to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, who Egyptian state media has accused of influencing protesters.

Judicial sources told The New Arab’s Arabic service that more than 350 detainees had been released without charge in recent days, but hundreds more were yet to appear before the courts.

Sisi has ordered prosecutors from other departments to work in the Supreme State Security Prosecution court as his government attempts to deal with the protests, signaling the prospect of a wider arrest campaign, sources said.

The defense minister warns of targeting the country’s security

During his meetings with various branches, formations and units of the armed forces, to contain the state of concern, anger and confusion in the ranks of the army because of the video footage published by the contractor and actor Mohamed Ali on the corruption of Sisi and some army leaders, away from censorship and accountability,  General Mohamed Zaki, the Egyptian Minister of Defense, said on Tuesday that the armed forces have been working “with the utmost vigilance and readiness to secure the borders of the state, and to face all attempts to undermine Egypt’s security and stability.”

Trump backing Sisi against protests

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday gave strong backing to Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as Sisi grapples with protests at home – saying the United States and Egypt have a great long-term relationship.

“Everybody has demonstrations,” Trump said with Sisi as they met on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. “No, I’m not concerned with it. Egypt has a great leader.”

Sisi was first elected in 2014 with 97% of the vote, and re-elected four years later with the same percentage, in a vote in which the only other candidate was an ardent Sisi supporter. His popularity has been dented by economic austerity measures.

Amnesty warns of ‘massive crackdown’ in Egypt as arrests continue

Amnesty International has called on global leaders to stop a crackdown on protesters and regime opponents in Egypt, following demonstrations against dictator Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi

Amnesty International has called on world leaders to stop a massive crackdown on opposition protesters by the regime of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a day after US President Donald Trump met with the Egyptian dictator and called him “a great leader”.

In a statement issued today Amnesty International said that Egyptian security forces “have carried out sweeping arrests of protesters, rounded up journalists, human rights lawyers, activists, protesters and political figures in a bid to silence critics and deter further protests from taking place”.

The Amnesty statement quoted the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights as saying that 964 people had been arrested in relation to protests in Egypt between 19 and 24 September.

Amnesty International spokesperson Najia Bounaim said, “These protests came as a shock because the authorities thought they had permanently intimidated protesters through the heavy-handed tactics of the past six years including arbitrary arrests and the use of excessive force, including lethal force.”

“The fact that protesters risked their lives and liberty to protest against General al-Sisi’s rule suggests his ruthless tactics have garnered frustration and anger,” Bounaim added.

Amnesty said that those detained were being investigated on charges including “aiding a terrorist group in achieving its goals”, “spreading false news”, “participating in unauthorized protests” and “misusing social media” to disseminate information of a “terrorist group”, a term used to describe the Muslim Brotherhood.

In videos released on Monday evening, Mohamed Ali, who has fled to Barcelona in Spain, said that his life was in danger from Egyptian intelligence operatives.

But he called on people to continue protests next Friday, telling them not to fear arrest or violence by security forces but also to stay on the move and not to form sit-ins like those previously organized in Rabaa Square, because this could make them an easier target.

Batel Campaign supports protests

The Batel (Void) Campaign, which in April 2019 organized a petition against constitutional amendments which will allow Sisi to stay in power until 2030, added its support to protests on Tuesday. Sisi had “drowned Egypt in debt and corruption and wasted the wealth of the people”, the campaigning group said in a statement.

HRW warns of crackdown on protesters

Human Rights Watch has called on the Egyptian authorities to allow peaceful protest and said that Sisi’s government had a track record of cracking down on opposition. “Mr. al-Sisi’s security agencies have time and again used brutal force to crush peaceful protests,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities should recognize that the world is watching and take all necessary steps to avoid a repetition of past atrocities.”

Tens of thousands of people have been detained by Sisi’s government since 2013 in a widespread crackdown on opposition that has targeted activists from the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood of deposed former president Mohamed Morsi and other political dissidents. In August of that year, Egyptian security forces massacred hundreds of anti-coup protesters in Cairo’s Rabaa Al-Adawiya square.