State moves against two activist leaders

A public prosecutor ordered the arrest of activist Alaa Abd El Fattah and April 6 leader Ahmed Maher Wednesday. The move follows Tuesday demonstrations against military trials, which defied the new protest law approved by interim President Adly Mansour Sunday.

Abd El Fattah and Maher are charged with inciting protests under the contentious new law.

Twenty-four demonstrators who were arrested in front of the Shura Council on Tuesday afternoon are still being held. They were given a four-day detention while investigations continue, the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights said Wednesday.

Another 26 women were also arrested but were released late Tuesday night. According to eyewitness reports, security forces drove the women out of the city before leaving them at the side of a road.

One of those arrested, well-known activist Salma Said, tweeted at 1 am Wednesday: “We were thrown in the desert. Our friends found us and we are all okay.”

Witnesses accused the police of physically and sexually assaulting the protesters. There were reports that both women and men who were arrested were groped by the police.

Activists called for more protests against the new law and Tuesday’s arrests. As with the Tuesday protests, the demonstrators are defying the state by not seeking approval in advance, as required by the new protest law.

The April 6 Youth Movement called in a statement for another protest to be held at 5 pm on Wednesday in Talaat Harb Square. The statement said the arrests will not deter the movement and other activists from protesting against the law, which they called repressive.

“We will not stand with our hands tied in front of the authorities’ attempt to take us back to the pre-January revolution time, and go back to the police state with its injustice and suppression of freedoms and rights,” the statement continued.

Following the protests, Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi announced that a committee will discuss the law. The state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper led its Wednesday coverage of the protests with the headline: “Ministry of Interior passes the first test of the protest law.”