• MB Blogs
  • January 16, 2010
  • 4 minutes read

Detained Egyptian activists being released upon Cairo arrival

Detained Egyptian activists being released upon Cairo arrival

CAIRO: The first batch of Egyptian activists and bloggers detained in Upper Egypt were released Saturday around 4:30 p.m. upon arrival back in Cairo after police had detained them near Nag Hammadi – the site of a January 6 shooting that left 6 Coptic Christians and one Muslim security guard killed in one of the worst sectarian crimes in recent Egyptian history. Ramy Raouf, a leading human rights defender and blogger, reported that the first batch of activists to be released including prominent bloggers Wael Abbas, Ahmed Badawy and Amira al-Tahawi and a few others.

They were part of a group of some 20 bloggers and activists who had made the long journey to Qena in southern Egypt to show solidarity with the families of those murdered on the eve of Coptic Christmas. Upon arrival, however, police were quick to arrest them. Early reports indicated a number of the bloggers were going to be charged with illegally demonstrating, but the public prosecutor apparently decided against taking any action and deported the activists back to Cairo.

“Police arrested them on arrival because they looked like they were not from the area,” said Raouf. “The police were not letting anyone who didn’t appear to be from the area into Nag Hammadi and the bloggers were simply taken away from the area without even having their names taken.”

Mustafa al-Naggar, a leading blogger and member of the Muslim Brotherhood, had led the mission to the southern Egyptian town in order to show support for the victims’ families.

But the Egyptian government would have none of it, arresting the bloggers upon their arrival. The visit, reportedly unpoliticized, was an attempt to show that different groups of Egyptians could come together in the face of growing sectarian tensions.

Naggar wrote that “we were cursed by the reign of an oppressive system that ruined our lives and harmony. We were robbed of our dreams and were left to suffer unemployment, fear, and deprivation.

“Egypt that was once a secure haven turned into a waste land. We are no longer safe in our homes for dawn visitors in uniforms can easily snatch us from our cribs. We are no longer secure in our streets for vagabonds and criminals can arrest us and harass our women. Today we witnessed how hitmen can easily shoot us as we finish our prayers.”

Zeinobia, another leading blogger not part of the mission, said that the bloggers are among the most prominent of citizen journalists.

“I do not understand why these bloggers have been detained,” she said in comments carried on Global Voices.

International human rights groups have chimed in with condemnation of the Egyptian government. New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a press statement on Saturday that the Egyptian government should be focusing on the perpetrators and the cause of the attack that killed people instead of bloggers who were doing no harm to the situation.

“Prosecuting those responsible for this vicious attack is an important and necessary first step,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East Director. “But if Egypt is to address seriously the festering religious hatred in the country, the government needs to implement a serious campaign of respect for religious diversity and equal rights for all.”

The deportation of the bloggers and activists have highlighted the difficulty of working in Egypt, especially on contentious issues such as human rights. A number of bloggers, including Abbas, have seen the heavy hand of the state in recent years, who have long pressured and even tortured bloggers for what they publish on their personal websites, human rights organizations in Egypt and abroad say.