EGYPT: Blogger grabbed by Egyptian security forces
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A blogger and peace activist is being held by Egyptian security forces at an undisclosed location after he was arrested Friday following a march to raise awareness about conditions in the Gaza Strip.
Philip Rizk, a 26-year-old Egyptian-German filmmaker and student at the American University in Cairo, was last seen leaving the Abu Zabal police station in a white mini-bus.
Rizk and other activists had earlier marched at a rally outside Cairo to condemn the Israeli blockade of Gaza and urge Egypt to open its Rafah border crossing to allow aid to enter the Palestinian enclave.
‘He is in the custody of State Security, which means illegal detention and a high probability of torture and ill treatment,’ Aida Seif El Dawla, who runs a group that counsels torture victims, told the Associated Press. ‘The fact that they are not saying where he is is very worrying.’
German officials have contacted Egyptian authorities, and Rizk’s Egyptian father and German mother have filed a complaint with the prosecutor’s office. Arrests of bloggers, activists and political opponents are common in Egypt, where they can be held for months without charges. More than 50 members of the Muslim Brotherhood organization were also detained after a recent Gaza rally.
The government of President Hosni Mubarak is sensitive to criticism regarding its handling of the Gaza crisis. Egypt has kept its Rafah border with Gaza mostly closed since late December, when Israel launched a 22-day incursion into the seaside enclave that killed about 1,300 Palestinians. The Egyptian government fears opening the border would ease pressure on the militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza and supports exporting radical Islam across the region.
Rizk had been filming a documentary about the Palestinian resistance. A post on his Tabula Gaza blog late last week urged activists to march toward Gaza to protest the Israeli siege:
‘Though the immediate Israeli military onslaught on Gaza -- for the time being -- has come to a standstill this is not a solution. Let us seize this time of urgency to act and call for an end to siege on Gaza. Though our respective governments reject expressing our resistance to the status quo we -- the multitude -- must move to the streets, as a collective global expression in condemnation of Israel’s actions.’
--Jeffrey Fleishman in Cairo