In the latest crackdown on dissent by the administration of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, five leftist and liberal activists were detained Tuesday.
Egypt’s Parliament Backs Move to Keep Sisi in Power Till 2030
According to the families, the police raided their homes in the early hours and took them to unknown locations. Among the detained were lawyer Ziad Eleimy, journalists Hisham Foad and Hossam Mones, economist Omar Shenety, and left-wing activist Osama Aqbwy.
Eleimy were arrested by plainclothed officers from his friend’s home. A former member of parliament, Eleimy was one of the prominent youth leaders of the 2011 Arab Spring.
Ford is a member of the Revolutionary Socialists movement. Shenety was detained Monday.
Journalist Ahmed Ragab and human rights defender Baheyy Din Hassan said the detained activists had recently met to discuss plans to run for next year’s parliamentary elections as a joint opposition coalition between leftist and liberal parties.
According to Hassan, the Egyptian security had previously summoned leaders of the proposed coalition and threatened them if they continued with their plans. They were also warned against communicating with exiled politician Mohamed Baradei.
“The latest wave of arrests targeting critics, opposition leaders, activists and journalists under the guise of counterterrorism is part of the Egyptian authorities’ systematic persecution and brutal crackdown on anyone who dares to criticize them," said Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty International’s North Africa Director of Research.
"The crackdown leaves no doubt about the authorities’ vision for political life in Egypt; an open-air prison with no opposition, critics or independent reporting allowed.”
Egypt’s Ministry of Interior in a statement Tuesday said the five detainees were collaborating with Muslim Brotherhood to “undermine the economy” and “target the state and its institutions” ahead of the anniversary of protests that led Sisi to power in 2013.
According to the ministry, the five were financed through Muslim Brotherhood leaders abroad "to carry out violent and disorderly acts against state institutions simultaneously with creating a state of revolutionary momentum."
People on social media criticized the move by the government and debunking the charges by arguing that the activists are in fact anti-Muslim Brotherhood.
The Interior Ministry also claimed that its police forces confiscated cash worth US$15 million and documents from the detainees’ homes. The documents are allegedly related to a plot against the government. They have also raided 19 companies which are accused of financing the plot.
It accused five individuals outside Egypt, including former presidential candidate Ayman Nour and prominent TV personalities Moataz Matar and Mohamed Nasser, of involvement in the alleged plot.
The ministry described Elaimy and the other detainees as "provocateur elements". Gamal Eid, a founder of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information who is representing Elaimy, said, "It seems to me that it was difficult for them to describe the detainees as terrorist elements because most of them are leftists.”
According to many human rights groups, an estimated 60,000 political prisoners have been detained since Sisi came to power after overthrowing the first democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi in a military coup.
Morsi died last week during a court hearing. His death was attributed to medical neglect while in prison.