Egypt: Over 100 Egyptians detained after pro-Palestinian protests

At least 100 people were arrested in Egypt after taking part in pro-Palestinian demonstrations late last week, reported Reuters, citing lawyers working on the cases, on Tuesday.

State-approved protests against Israel’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip were held at several locations in Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt on Friday.

However, some protesters in Cairo walked to Tahrir Square – the center of Egypt’s 2011 uprising – which was not among the sites approved for the pro-Palestinian demonstration. The protesters were quickly dispersed by security personnel.

Unauthorised public protests are banned in Egypt, and Tahrir Square, which was redesigned several years ago, is heavily monitored by security services because of its symbolic status.

“Around 40 of the arrests were in Cairo, 65 in Alexandria, and a few from other provinces. Fourteen of the detainees from Cairo were summoned to the public prosecutor’s office,” human rights lawyer Nabeh Elganadi said.

At least 18 detainees from Cairo were released on Monday, “and that number is likely to rise,” he added.

Judicial officials and an interior ministry spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has overseen a long crackdown on dissent across the political spectrum during nearly a decade in power.

Human rights groups say that tens of thousands have been jailed on political grounds and without due process.

For example, Human Rights Watch satates that since Al-Sisi effectively rose to power in July 2013 after ousting Egypt’s first elected president, Mohamed Morsy, Egyptian authorities have arrested and charged tens of thousands of political opponents.

A law introduced shortly after Morsy’s ouster effectively banned all peaceful protests, and authorities have used it as a justification to arrest and prosecute thousands of protesters. Widespread arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances have been a hallmark of Al-Sisi’s rule.

Between Morsy’s overthrow and May 2014, the independent Egyptian civil society initiative Wikithawra documented the arrest or prosecution of 41,000 people. In addition, 26,000 more may have been arrested in 2015 and 2016, lawyers and human rights researchers have said.

The nationwide crackdown quickly widened to include scores of writers, journalists, artists, and political and human rights defenders for their peaceful criticism. Al-Sisi himself had said in June 2015 that “there are innocents in prisons.” He has issued presidential pardons for over 1,100 people, many of whom were arrested during peaceful protests.

Those detained over recent days and after the protests included some supporters of a campaign by former member of parliament Ahmed Tantawy to stand against Sisi in presidential elections due in December, said Elganadi and Belal Habib, a legal advisor to the campaign.

Tantawy quit the campaign after complaining that his supporters had been harassed and arrested as he tried to gather the 25,000 public endorsements required to stand, accusations that Egypt’s election authority said were unfounded.

Amnesty International has urged the Egyptian government, in a tweet on X, formerly known as Twitter, to release those arrested for peacefully protesting in solidarity with people in Gaza, saying, “Egyptian authorities must immediately release those arrested for peacefully protesting in solidarity with people in Gaza on 20 October.”

Amnesty added, “According to the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), a rights group, at least 114 protesters, including children, were swept up in the wave of arrests in Cairo and Alexandria.”

In another tweet, Amnesty said, “Prosecutors interrogated 14 protesters on 22 October and ordered their pre-trial detention on bogus terrorism-related charges and for disturbing public peace; while others remained forcibly disappeared. Egypt’s authorities must uphold rights to peaceful assembly and expression”