Egyptian blogger ordered detained for 15 days

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the arrest in Cairo of a blogger who has exposed torture in Egyptian police stations and prisons. Authorities detained Abdel Moneim Mahmoud on Sunday on charges that he belongs to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and that he defamed the government with his reporting.

State security officers arrested Mahmoud, 27, who is also correspondent for the London-based Arabic-language Al-Hiwar TV channel, as he was flying out of Cairo International Airport at 1 a.m., his lawyer, Islam Lutfi, told CPJ today. Mahmoud was traveling on assignment for Al-Hiwar TV.

At the direction of the attorney general, a local prosecutor ordered Mahmoud detained for 15 days pending an investigation into the Muslim Brotherhood charge, Lutfi added.

“We are outraged by the detention of Abdel Moneim Mahmoud and call for his immediate release,” Executive Director Joel Simon said. “It is clear to us that his detention is an attempt to silence his critical reporting on torture and human rights and to quash a dissident opinion.”

Mahmoud was transferred to Mahkoum prison in Tora, southeast of Cairo, where he is being held among convicted criminals in atrocious conditions, Lutfi told CPJ.

Mahmoud’s arrest follows an early Friday raid by state security officers at his parent’s home in the northern city of Alexandria, according to CPJ sources. State security officers wanted to arrest him then, but he wasn’t home. Mahmoud has been living in Cairo for two years.

In his blog, Ana-Ikhwan, Mahmoud criticized the torture of civilians by Egyptian authorities and the country’s practice of trying civilians in military courts. In late March, Mahmoud testified at an international conference in Cairo, where he alleged that he was tortured himself during an incarceration in early 2003. Mahmoud was also detained for six months in 2006 and released last September.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition group, was outlawed in 1954. The group remains openly active and the target of frequent government crackdowns. Mahmoud writes for the Muslim Brotherhood Web site Ikhwanweb.

In the last year, the government detained several bloggers affiliated with the country’s pro-democracy movement. In February, Egyptian blogger Abdel Karim Suleiman, who goes by the online name Karim Amer, was convicted by a criminal court of insulting Islam and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. He was sentenced to four years in prison, according to international news reports.

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