An Alexandria prosecutor’s office ordered on Tuesday the detention of Alexandrian rights lawyer Mohamed Ramadan for 15 days, after he posted a photo of himself wearing a yellow vest on his Facebook page several days ago in solidarity with the French “Yellow Vest” movement, according to lawyer Mahienour al-Massry.
Massry told Mada Masr that Ramadan was detained on accusations of “joining a terrorist group and promoting its ideas, spreading false news, possessing pamphlets and yellow vests to call for protests against the government similar to the ‘Yellow Vest’ protests in France, and using social media to promote a terrorist group.” Massry said the evidence against Ramadan — in reference to the possession of pamphlets and yellow vests — was “fabricated” and that his residence had not been searched.
Ramadan was arrested on Monday afternoon by plainclothes security officers as he returned home after attending an interrogation session with one of his clients. He was taken to a National Security Agency office, where he was held overnight. His whereabouts remained unknown to his family and lawyers until he appeared before the prosecution on Tuesday, according to Massry.
The Associated Press reported on Monday that “Egyptian authorities have quietly introduced restrictions on the sale of yellow reflective vests, fearing opponents might attempt to copy French protesters during next month’s anniversary of the 2011 popular uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.”
The AP report included a number of interviews with retailers in a downtown area in Cairo, where industrial safety stores are concentrated, who said that police had told them to stop selling the yellow vests.
“Security officials said the restrictions would remain in force until the end of January. They said industrial safety product importers and wholesale merchants were summoned to a meeting with senior police officers in Cairo this week and informed of the rules,” AP wrote.
The “Yellow Vest” protests — named for the fluorescent hazard vests adopted by the demonstrators as a sign of their economic hardship — erupted in France last month, as protesters took a stand against a tax hike on fuel. They have since grown into a broader revolt against President Emmanuel Macron’s government and its economic policies, which are seen as prioritizing business interests at the expense of social welfare, offering tax breaks for the rich amid declining living standards for the working poor.
More than 280,000 demonstrators turned out nationwide in France on November 17, the first weekend of the protests, and have continued since then, with angry clashes regularly breaking out between protesters and police. On Saturday alone, 118 demonstrators and 17 police officers were injured nationwide and police made nearly 1,400 arrests, according to the French Interior Ministry.
The government cancelled the fuel tax increase last week and, in a speech on Monday, Macron made several concessions, including stating his intention to increase the minimum wage and cancelling a planned tax on pensions. He did not, however, announce any major changes to his pro-business policies, and many protesters have said that Macron’s offer falls short of satisfying their demands.
Ramadan was sentenced in absentia in April 2017 to 10 years in prison and five years of house arrest, and banned from using social media for five years in a separate case, on charges of “insulting the president, misusing social media, and inciting violence.” A retrial, ordered in July 2017, has been suspended since June, and will remain so until the Supreme Constitutional Court issues a verdict in a lawsuit filed by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights against the anti-terrorism law, that includes articles under which Ramadan was charged.