Egypt detains activist blogger amid new wave of arrests

Wael Abbas signs a copy of his book, ‘The theory of leaving the bowl,’ in Cairo. The prominent activist and blogger faces charges of disseminating false news and joining an outlawed group. (AP Photo)
Updated 23 May 2018
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Egypt detains activist blogger amid new wave of arrests

  • Wael Abbas has campaigned against torture in Egypt for well over a decade, before and after the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak.
  • Earlier this month, Egyptian police arrested two prominent activists, Shady el-Ghazaly Harb and Haytham Mohamedeen, on an array of charges including belonging to an outlawed group and insulting the president.

CAIRO: An Egyptian activist and blogger known for documenting police abuse was detained on Wednesday, security officials said, the latest in a new wave of arrests following elections earlier this year.
Wael Abbas was taken from his home in a Cairo suburb on accusations that include disseminating false news and joining an outlawed group, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights said police raided Abbas’ home at dawn, seizing his computer and mobile phones. It says he was blindfolded before being taken to an unknown location.
Abbas has campaigned against torture in Egypt for well over a decade, before and after the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak. He has published graphic videos showing torture and police abuse on his blog, misrdigital.com, and has been detained on a number of occasions.
His YouTube account was shut down in 2007, resulting in the removal of hundreds of videos showing protests and abuses by security forces. In December, he wrote on Facebook that Twitter had suspended his account without providing an explanation.
Amnesty International on Wednesday condemned Abbas’ detention on Twitter, saying his arrest is part of a crackdown by Egyptian authorities on freedom of expression.
Authorities have arrested a number of secular activists since President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi was re-elected to a second four-year term in March. He faced no serious challengers, after several potentially strong candidates were arrested or intimidated into withdrawing from the race.
Earlier this month, Egyptian police arrested two prominent activists, Shady el-Ghazaly Harb and Haytham Mohamedeen, on an array of charges including belonging to an outlawed group and insulting the president. Shady Abu Zaid, a young comedian, was arrested on accusations that include spreading false news.
The latest arrests come amid a wider crackdown on dissent. Thousands of people have been jailed, unauthorized protests have been banned and hundreds of websites, including many run by independent journalists and rights activists, have been blocked.
The government has said such measures are needed to restore stability and combat an insurgency in the northern Sinai Peninsula that has gained strength since 2013 and is now led by the Daesh group.
On Tuesday, a military court sentenced a freelance journalist who reported on the Sinai insurgency to 10 years in prison on terror-related charges. Ismail Alexandrani was convicted of spreading false news and joining an outlawed group.
International rights groups condemned the sentence and urged his release.
“Hauling a journalist before a military court not only violates his rights as a civilian but sends a chilling message to the media that independent coverage of political dissent and security threats will not be tolerated by Egypt’s rulers,” said Robert Mahoney, of the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Sarah Leah Whitson, of Human Rights Watch, said the verdict “exemplifies the government’s vicious retaliation against journalists who report on sensitive issues.”


UN calls on Libya to crack down on violent militias

Khalifa Haftar. (Supplied)
Updated 21 August 2018
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UN calls on Libya to crack down on violent militias

  • Libya remains divided between the UN-backed GNA in Tripoli and a rival administration in the east supported by military strongman Khalifa Haftar
  • Tripoli office to a more “secure” location after threats from militiamen against its employees

TRIPOLI: The UN has called on Libya’s internationally recognized government to crack down on armed groups obstructing the work of state institutions in the chaos-wracked country.
The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) late on Sunday night expressed its “strong condemnation of the violence, intimidation and obstruction to the work of Libya’s sovereign institutions by militiamen.”
It called on the UN-backed Government of National Accord to “prosecute those responsible for these criminal actions.”
The GNA’s military and security institutions have failed to place limits on the powerful militias that sprung up in the turmoil that followed the 2011 ouster of dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
Several state institutions, including those in Tripoli, have been regular targets of harassment and intimidation by armed groups technically operating under the GNA’s Interior Ministry.
Members of militias “nominally acting under the Ministry of Interior of the Government of National Accord are attacking sovereign institutions and preventing them from being able to operate effectively,” UNSMIL said.
Last week, the GNA’s National Oil Corp. said men from the Interior Ministry had forced their way into the headquarters of Brega Petroleum Marketing Company — a distribution outfit — to “arrest” its chief.
The Libyan Investment Authority, the GNA-managed sovereign wealth fund, recently moved from its downtown Tripoli office to a more “secure” location after threats from militiamen against its employees.
UNSMIL said it would work with the international community and the GNA to “investigate the possibility of bringing sanctions against those interfering with or threatening the operations of any sovereign institution.”
Libya remains divided between the UN-backed GNA in Tripoli and a rival administration in the east supported by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.
A myriad of militias,terrorist groups and people traffickers have taken advantage of the chaos to gain a foothold in the North African country.