Egypt: Prominent Egyptian Bloggers and Activists Detained
|Saturday, January 23,2010 09:39|
In a show of solidarity to the Egyptian families suffering after the loss of their loved ones in the attacks on the eve of the Orthodox Coptic Christmas, a large group of prominent Egyptian bloggers and political activists journeyed to the town of Nag Hammadi in southern Egypt. The group consisted of prominent Egyptian bloggers and at least one french political activist. Upon their arrival at least 20 members of the group were detained this morning by Egyptian authorities. The visit was organized by Mustafa al-Naggar a member of the Muslim brotherhood and also one of those detained bloggers.
“Their mission was to console the families of the victims and to take a stance against sectarianism. Upon their arrests, the officers took their IDs and mobile phones and they were taken in separate cars to an unknown destination,” wrote blogger Kareem el-Beheiry. The arrested party is reported to include:
1- Esraa Abdel Fattah
Among the arrested party is Bassem Samir who is scheduled to arrive in Washington D.C. on Sunday as one of six representatives from POMED’s fall 2009 conferences. The group is scheduled to meet with leading U.S. policymakers, to speak at POMED’s conference on Capitol Hill, and to receive awards at our annual reception on January 20th. In light of this news from Egypt, Samir’s ability to participate in POMED’s events in Washington next week is unknown at this time.
In support of the detained bloggers, activists have organized an open-ended sit-in at the Journalists Syndicate in Cairo until the detainees are released.
These events follow comments made by U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scobey asserting that freedom of expression was alive and well in Egypt. The gap between her remarks and the reality felt by Egyptians, further underscored by today’s events, was also noted in a Washington Post editorial last week entitled “Free to Speak Out.” Despite Egypt’s poor rating for press freedom in Reporters Without Borders and frequent arrests targeting Egyptians who have expressed themselves politically, Scobey was quoted as saying, “In my time in Egypt, I have noticed that many Egyptians are very free to speak out. The press debates so many things.”
UPDATE (4:12 pm): Our sources in Cairo are giving us more information on the arrests. We are hearing that that activists detained do not have access to enough lawyers, only 1-2 currently for the whole group. We also hear that since today is Friday, and it is already late Cairo time, they will likely have to wait until the morning to get a legal order to be released. They were initially told they would be released after the Jumaa (Friday) prayers, then were told they will be released in the afternoon, then were told they will be released at 6pm so they can catch the 7pm train, but none of these promises materialized. We’re also told they have been “charged” for “illegal assembling and disorderly conduct/causing unrest.”