• January 17, 2008

50 people, including journalists, arrested before Kefaya protest begins

50 people, including journalists, arrested before Kefaya protest begins

 Around 50 people were arrested Thursday before a Kefaya-organized protest against the abolition of ration cards began in downtown Cairo.

The demonstration, organized by the Kefaya Movement for Change, was meant to be held in Al-Sayeda Zeinab Square to protest the abolition of ration cards, which people in lower-income brackets use to buy government subsidized foodstuffs.But state security trucks surrounded the square, leading the organizers to move the protest to the steps in front of the Press Syndicate before canceling it altogether.Those arrested, mostly journalists and members of Kefaya, were held in state security trucks and had their mobile phones and other personal items confiscated. Their personal information, including addresses and phone numbers, was also documented.

Bissan Kassab, a journalist with Al-Dostour and a member of the movement, told Daily News Egypt that among those arrested were: Abdel Wahab El Messiri, general coordinator of Kefaya, Karima El Hefnawy, Karim Reda, Sameh Hassanein and Nawal Aly. She received this information from George Ishaq, the former head of the Kefaya movement.“I was going to cover the protest with a male colleague when a police officer threatened to arrest us,” said Kassab, “We walked off to a remote area with a good view of the location of the protests, but after about 10 minutes, the officers came and violently took us by force.”According to Rasha Azzam, also a journalist and member of Kefaya, people were arrested in groups, and her group was made up of three women and seven men, including Kassab.

Azzam was released after about an hour, but others were driven off to the suburb of New Cairo where they were released and told to find their own way home. Another group was released after being taken to State Security Headquarters in Lazoghli Street.Others arrested are believed to be in police custody.“They are in danger of being transferred to police headquarters in New Cairo, where their release would be much more difficult,” said Kassab.“We were arrested as journalists,” said Ebtesam Taalab, who writes for Al-Badil, “not as Kefaya members.”