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Rights lawyers: Egypt frees more than 100 held in crackdown

By SAMY MAGDY
Updated: October 19, 2019 11:22 AM
Created: October 19, 2019 11:13 AM

CAIRO (AP) - Egyptian authorities released more than 100 people who were among hundreds more arrested in a sweeping crackdown following small but rare anti-government protests last month, rights lawyers and officials said Saturday.

Lawyers Mustafa el-Demiry and Khaled Ali said 101 detainees, including 30 women, were released late Friday, pending an investigation into allegations they took part in the activities of a banned group and disseminating false news on social media platforms.

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A local rights group tracking the arrests says security forces have rounded up around 3,700 people, including rights lawyers, activists, journalists and several foreign nationals since the protests on Sept. 20. The country's top prosecutor said late in September that his office questioned up to 1,000 suspects who took part in the protests.

The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights said more than 800 people, including foreigners, have been released, but many others have been further detained.

Security officials put the toll of the released at over 1,200, mostly without charges. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Friday called for releasing those arrested "solely for exercising their rights."

Bachelet's office said the arrests have been ongoing and urged authorities to "promptly and effectively" investigate any allegations of torture or ill-treatment leveled by prominent activists.

"The arrests are continuing, with a number of well-known and respected civil society figures affected, some of whom have been accused of terrorism," spokeswomen Ravina Shamdasani said.

Shamdasani said Esraa Abdel-Fattah, a writer and human rights activist, was arrested Oct. 12 by security officers in plainclothes who took her to an undisclosed location where she reportedly was beaten for refusing to unlock her mobile phone.

Abdel-Fattah was a co-founder of the April 6 movement, which played a crucial role in the 2011 pro-democracy uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

She was ordered to remain in custody for 15 days pending an investigation into allegations of joining an outlawed group, disseminating false news and misuse of social media, according to rights lawyer Khaled Ali. Abdel-Fattah announced she was going on a hunger strike.

Another pro-democracy activist, Alaa Abdel-Fattah, no relation to Esraa, was arrested in late September and his family said he was beaten, threatened and stripped to his underwear while in custody.

The family said Alaa Abdel-Fattah was subjected to several rights violations, including being blindfolded, insulted, slapped, kicked and threatened never to set foot outside one of Cairo's most notorious prisons, where he is being held.

"We call on the Egyptian authorities to promptly and effectively investigate any allegations of torture or ill-treatment in detention and to take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent such acts," Shamdasani said.

There was no comment from Egyptian authorities on the allegations.

The protests came in the wake of corruption allegations against the Egyptian military made by a businessman-in-exile last month. El-Sissi has angrily dismissed the allegations.

Since leading the military's 2013 overthrow of an elected but divisive wIslamist president, el-Sissi has overseen a crackdown on dissent, jailing thousands of Islamists along with secular, pro-democracy advocates, imposing tight control of the media and rolling back freedoms won in a popular 2011 uprising.


(Copyright 2019 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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