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EGYPT: Publisher arrested for releasing a book about ElBaradei

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An Egyptian whose publishing house distributed a book on the role possible presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei might have in the nation’s political future was arrested over the weekend, human rights activists and security sources confirmed. State security forces on Saturday raided the home of Ahmed Mahanna, director of Dawin publications and distribution, confiscating his computer and copies of ‘ElBaradei and the Dream of a Green Revolution.’

‘Breaking into the house of a publisher and arresting him for a book about ElBaradei in such an ambiguous way without giving reasons or declaring charges is a serious violation of freedom of opinion and expression,’ the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information said in a statement. ‘It clearly shows the intention of the government to gag all dissenting voices as well as those supporting ElBaradei and the National Front for Change.’

[Updated, 1:10 p.m. PST: The Associated Press is reporting that Mahanna has been released from jail.]

Mahanna’s lawyer told Egyptian media that she considers her client to be ‘kidnapped,’ adding that no one was able to reach him or verify his location. The Egyptian Ministry of Interior would not comment on the investigation.

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Mahanna is not the first to be targeted as a result of ElBaradei’s growing popularity. A doctor claimed he was arrested and tortured by security officials while attempting to take part in a conference scheduled to show support for ElBaradei.

Kamal Ghobrial, the author of the ElBaradei book, said he was stunned by Mahanna’s arrest. He said his book doesn’t support ElBaradei or his possible presidential bid as much as it discusses the political movement behind the 67-year-old’s return to Egypt.

Since coming back to Cairo after stepping down from his post as head of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, ElBaradei has managed to break the country’s political stagnation by gathering people around his National Front for Change, which is seeking to amend the country’s constitution to allow more presidential candidates.

The Noble Peace Prize winner also said that if successful, he will run in the 2011 presidential elections against the ruling National Democratic Party’s candidate. President Hosni Mubarak, 81, is yet to announce whether he will seek reelection, triggering speculation that his son and party member, Gamal Mubarak, could be the NDP nominee.

Gall bladder surgery in Germany last month has also cast many doubts over Hosni Mubarak’s physical ability to run the country for another term.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo


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