A wide and aggressive sweep by security forces continues, with at least 1,909 people arrested as of early Thursday morning, according to the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights. This arrest campaign, which began after anti-regime protests erupted last weekend, is the largest since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi formally took power on a counter-terrorism mandate in 2014.
Journalist, former Dostour Party leader, and senior member of the Civil Democratic Movement Khaled Dawoud, was among those arrested on Wednesday. Hazem Hosny and Hassan Nafaa, both professors at Cairo University’s Faculty of Economics and Political Science, were also arrested. All three have appeared before State Security Prosecution, according to lawyers, and face charges of spreading fake news and joining terrorist organizations.
Nafaa’s arrest came a day after television presenter Wael al-Ebrashy aired a leaked recording on his show Kol Youm of a phone call between Nafaa and a journalist, who was asking him to appear in a documentary produced in cooperation with Al-Jazeera. Al-Ahram, Al-Bawaba News, Sada al-Balad and other papers published pieces about the recording with headlines accusing Nafaa of treason.
The journalist speaking with Nafaa in the recording identifies himself as Mostafa al-Asar, who has been in pretrial detention since February 2018 on charges of joining a terrorist organization and publishing fake news as part of case 441/2018. This suggests that the recording is at least a year and a half old. Ebrashy did not mention the source of the recording.
Lawyer Samir Sabry, known for litigiousness on behalf of the state, filed a complaint to the public prosecutor and State Security Prosecution, accusing Nafaa of publishing fake news and incitement against the Egyptian state.
In Suez, where it has been difficult to verify news because of an acute security crackdown, Mohamed Salah Agag, deputy head of the Lawyers Syndicate, was arrested Wednesday.
According to his Facebook page, Agag was aware of a warrant for his arrest, but insisted on attending interrogations with detained protesters. He was arrested while attending those interrogations, according to statements made by a number of his friends.
Human rights lawyer Kareem Abdel Rady said that a number of other lawyers were also arrested for defending people detained over the last few days, adding that some were arrested while attending interrogations at prosecutors’ offices. The list of detained lawyers includes: Ahmed Sarhan, Ahmed Abdel Azeem, Islam Khairy Nour Eddin and Mahmoud Moemen Naeem. Human rights lawyer and activist Mahienour al-Massry was arrested by plainclothes officers after she left State Security Prosecution headquarters on Sunday.
This is the largest security sweep since Sisi took office in 2014. Previously, the highest record of arrests was 1,277, during the wave that followed the protests over the agreement to hand over the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia in 2016.
The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights said late on Wednesday that it was still receiving reports of new arrests, and detainees were still arriving at different prosecution offices. Meanwhile, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms said that district court prosecutors in the Zeinhom district of Cairo were refusing to reveal the names of detainees being interrogated without a lawyer present.
Amid the chaos, lawyers began posting the names of some of those arrested on social media, in hopes of reaching their families.
TV presenter Amr Adib played a video on his show on Tuesday night that allegedly shows seven individuals, six of whom were foreigners, who are detained on charges of spreading violence against the state and publishing false news. Adib’s videos included confessions from some of the detainees to the charges. The group included two Turkish nationals, two Jordanians, a Palestinian, and a Dutch national, who said he was arrested after flying his drone from the rooftop of his hotel near Tahrir Square.
The independent Jordanian outlet 7iber reported on the backgrounds of the two Jordanians, friends who were both born in 1995 and have each been to Egypt multiple times. Abdelrahman Aly al-Rawajba is a filmmaker who aspired to transition away from the commercial work he was doing in Jordan and enter the world of cinema. He was in Egypt for workshops with film director Bassel Ramses. Ramses said as much in a Facebook post on Wednesday, adding that security forces arrested Rawagba from the apartment in Maadi where he was staying and not on the street, as Adib claims.
Thaer Matar, the other Jordanian detainee, plans on pursuing a postgraduate degree in mechanical engineering in Germany and has been in Cairo studying German at the Goethe Institute, according to the 7iber report.
Mohamed Ali, the contractor and actor whose Facebook videos sparked the rare demonstrations, is continuing his call for protests this upcoming Friday in social media posts. There has been a heavy security presence in Cairo throughout the week, with police stopping and searching the phones of pedestrians on the street and raiding homes, especially in the downtown area.
At press time, Al-Bawaba News tweeted a statement from the Interior Ministry, calling on people to maintain public order and stating that it would confront any effort to destabilize the country with “decisiveness.”
Al-Dostour newspaper (no relation to Dawoud’s party) reported a campaign by members of Parliament and other politicians to gather people at pro-Sisi rallies tomorrow afternoon.
Amnesty International published a statement in response to the arrests on Tuesday. “World leaders must confront President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and utterly condemn the crackdown he has waged to counter the outbreak of protests in recent days,” the statement reads. “The world must not stand silently by as President al-Sisi tramples all over Egyptians’ rights to peaceful protest and freedom of expression.”
The international organization demanded that the Egyptian authorities immediately release those detained for practicing their right to peaceful protest, and allow protests to take place tomorrow.