Police have arrested an estimated 28 activists and young members of several political parties in a sweeping security crackdown across several governorates.
According to rights lawyer Khaled Ali the arrests took place over 10 governorates, with charges relating to the sharing of posts critical of the government on social networking sites, particularly Facebook.
In a statement published on Thursday Ali wrote that the nationwide arrests are likely a deliberate attempt to “target the parties that have been active over the course of this year, and prosecute their members across the governorates in order to spread fear and to kill any attempt to revive political activism, or to reclaim the public domain.”
Port Said officials ordered the release of Bread and Freedom Party member Mohamed Walid on Thursday on LE500 bail, two days after he was arrested on charges of insulting the president on Facebook according to his lawyer Tarek Hussein.
District prosecutors in Port Said also referred activist and Dostour Party member Ahmed Hefny to court on Tuesday, four days after he was arrested on charges of insulting the president, misuse of social networking sites and belonging to an outlawed group.
The Popular Socialist Alliance Party issued a statement Thursday reporting that police personnel had arrested party member Walid Abdel Moneim from his apartment in Beni Suef in a dawn raid on Wednesday. A legal representative was dispatched to inquire about Abdel Moneim’s whereabouts and the charges he is facing, although these remain unknown.
Wednesday also saw Zagazig district prosecutors order the detention of political activist Andrew Nassif, for 15 days pending investigations, on charges of the possession and distribution of leaflets according to the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression.
Qena prosecutors ordered the detention of activists Mostafa al-Galless and Mostafa Abdullah for 15 days pending investigations into charges of belonging to an outlawed group and undermining public space. They were also arrested on Wednesday according to a statement issued by the Covenant Center for Legal Support.
Alexandria authorities extended the detention of four activists, Nael Hassan, Islam al-Hadary, Shazly Hussein, and Ahmed Ibrahim on Wednesday by a period of 15 days. They all face charges of insulting the president online, joining a group which contravenes the law, obstructing state institutions, inciting public opinion against the government and seeking to overthrow the regime. These charges fall under Egypt’s anti-terrorism law, and are punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Several political parties held a joint press conference at the Dostour Party headquarters on Thursday in response to the widespread arrests, condemning the crackdown.George Ishaq, member of the state-appointed National Council for Human Rights was in attendance, in addition to representatives from the Dostour Party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party,the Karama Party, the Bread and Freedom Party and the Popular Socialist Alliance Party.
A group of human rights organizations, among them the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Al-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, also issued a joint statement on Thursday condemning the crackdown.
The arrests come as Parliament is discussing a bill to further criminalize criticism of the president or comments deemed insulting to the Egyptian state. Rights organizations have called nationwide campaign targeting political activists an attempt by the state to further consolidate its powers and to curtail criticism.