A spate of raids in recent days has prompted fears that the state is renewing its ongoing crackdown on political opposition, after three arrests were carried out in Cairo and Alexandria at the beginning of this week.
Between late Sunday afternoon and dawn on Monday, Sayed al-Banna, Walid Shawky and Ahmed Sabry Abu Alam were taken from their places of work or homes by security forces, who refused to inform the detainees’ families where their relatives were being held. All three were previously accused and acquitted in relation to Tiran and Sanafir protests.
Lawyers say they do not know the reasons for the arrests, but they conveyed concerns that they could mark a new wave of arrests targeting those who were formerly politically active.
Banna, a lawyer, was arrested late on Sunday when National Security Agency personnel raided his home in the Shubra al-Kheima neighborhood of Cairo, refusing to inform his family where he would be held. When they went to the Shubra al-Kheima Police Station with his lawyer to enquire as to his whereabouts, they were told that he was not in police custody, according to Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) lawyer Anas Sayed.
According to Sayed, it is likely that Banna is being held in one of the National Security Agency’s premises. The lawyer added that his family and lawyers have sent official telegraphs to the prosecutor general and Interior Ministry to report his arrest and request information about his place of detention and the charges he is facing.
Although Banna was arrested in 2016 in relation to a Tiran and Sanafir case, he was released in September 2016, and the case was later closed, Sayed told Mada Masr.
In similar circumstances, dentist Walid Shawky, who was named in the same case in 2016 but never arrested, was summoned for questioning on Sunday evening. Shawky’s lawyer Mai Hamed told Mada Masr that four enlisted police personnel came to his clinic, accompanying him from there to the Sayeda Zeinab Police Station. As with Banna, when Shawky’s family and lawyers went to the station to ask about his whereabouts, they were told he was not there, Hamed said.
She added that his family and lawyers made enquiries at both Sayeda Zeinab prosecution and at the Supreme State Security Prosecution but received no answer. Hamed said that she believes he is in custody at the Sayeda Zeinab Police Station awaiting interrogation by the Supreme State Security Prosecution.
Hamed observed that state security prosecutors tend to interrogate defendants during the night because they do not want lawyers to attend. ”Sometimes they directly refuse to allow lawyers to attend,” she added.
The third to be arrested, lawyer Ahmed Abu Alam, was taken in during a pre-dawn raid on Monday morning, according to ECRF lawyer Mohamed Fotouh. He also faced protest-related charges in a 2017 Tiran and Sanafir case, though it was not the same case as Banna and Shawky. He was acquitted in January of his year, according to lawyer Mohamed Fotouh.
The lawyer told Mada Masr that after officers from the Moharram Beik Police Station raided his home in Alexandria, they refused to inform his family and lawyer of his whereabouts and the station denied having him in custody.
They were led on a wild goose chase after learning through informal channels that he was transferred to a Cairo facility and would appear before the Supreme State Security Prosecution on Monday. Lawyers went to the prosecution headquarters during the morning and night shift to file inquiries, but did not turn up any information about the missing lawyer.
Fotouh told Mada Masr that the Lawyers Syndicate branch in Alexandria and the general syndicate in Cairo were informed of his arrest and that he had not yet been located, but that they did not commit to taking action.
According to Fotouh, at least two persons who used to be politically active in Alexandria, who prefer not to have their names mentioned were also targeted in the arrests. Security forces carried out another raid on a house on Sunday, although the targeted individual was absent, according to a source who spoke to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity. The forces also assaulted the family.