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.”


Iran must provide care to detainees on hunger strike: UN experts

Updated 44 min 41 sec ago
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Iran must provide care to detainees on hunger strike: UN experts

  • British-Iranian detainee Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe launched a hunger strike over a lack of care
  • “The authorities must urgently address the violations that are the basis of their hunger strike protest,” UN experts said

GENEVA: UN human rights experts urged Iran on Wednesday to grant urgently needed medical attention to two detainees, including British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who launched a hunger strike over a lack of care.
The six UN experts also appealed on behalf of Iranian human rights activist Narges Mohammadi, who was arrested in 2015 and jailed for 10 years for “forming and managing an illegal group” and who has joined Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s hunger strike.
“We urge the Government to immediately and unconditionally provide Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Narges Mohammadi with access to the appropriate treatment and care they have repeatedly requested in light of their serious health concerns,” the experts said in a statement.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, has said his wife has detected a lump in her breast and is complaining of numbness in her arms and legs.
Mohammadi has been denied proper health care for more than a year, despite suffering from a pulmonary embolism, blood clots and seizures, the experts said said, citing people familiar with her situation.
“The authorities must urgently address the violations that are the basis of their hunger strike protest,” the group said.
The statement was signed by Dainius Puras, special rapporteur on the right to health, Diego Garcia-Sayan, the rapporteur for independent judges and lawyers as well as Nils Melzer, the UN expert on torture.
It was also signed by a specialist on arbitrary detentions, Seong-Phil Hong, the rapporteur on human rights defenders, Michel Forst, and Javaid Rehman, the expert on human rights in Iran.
UN rights experts are independent, unpaid and do not speak for the office of the High Commission for Human Rights.