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Egyptian activists arrested amid tensions around anniversary of Arab Spring uprising

Egyptian activists arrested amid tensions around anniversary of Arab Spring uprising
Egyptian lawyer Negad Borai, left, shown leaving court in Cairo in 2015, says at least six activists have been detained in the last couple of days in a wave of arrests coinciding with the anniversary of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising (Nariman El-Mofty / Associated Press)

Egypt has rounded up at least six activists in the last couple of days in a wave of arrests coinciding with the anniversary of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising, a rights lawyer said Wednesday.

Authorities have waged a sweeping crackdown on dissent in recent years, reversing freedoms won in the popular uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Security in Egypt is especially tight around the anniversary of the Jan. 25 uprising and public commemorations of the protests are largely banned.

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Negad Borai, the lawyer, said that among those arrested in the past two days is Yehia Hussein Abdel Hady, the former spokesman of the Civil Democratic Movement. The coalition of secular and left-leaning political parties had called for a boycott of Egypt's presidential election last year.

The other five activists were arrested on Monday after they attended a ceremony commemorating the uprising, Borai said.

Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood gather in Cairo on April 24, 2015, to protest the imprisonment of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.
Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood gather in Cairo on April 24, 2015, to protest the imprisonment of ousted President Mohammed Morsi. (Belal Darder / Associated Press)

The five were members of the Karama, or Dignity, party founded by opposition leader Hamdeen Sabahi, the only candidate who ran against President Abdel Fattah Sisi in the 2014 presidential election.

The whereabouts of the six activists are still unknown, Borai said. A spokesman for Egypt's Interior Ministry, which oversees police, did not respond to phone calls and messages seeking comment.

It was not clear if the activists are among 54 people who authorities said Tuesday were detained for plotting to incite chaos on the anniversary of the uprising.

The Interior Ministry said those individuals, most of them alleged members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, were arrested over the past weeks in different locations.

Egyptian prosecutors on Wednesday also ordered 25 people already in custody to be held for 15 more days pending an investigation.

The Supreme State Security Prosecution said the suspects are accused of membership in an outlawed group, that is, the Muslim Brotherhood. They also face charges of illegal protesting. There was no announcement from prosecutors about the others.

The Muslim Brotherhood won a series of elections after the 2011 uprising. Mohammed Morsi, a senior Brotherhood member, was elected president in 2012 but was overthrown by the military the following year amid mass protests against his rule.

Authorities have since branded the group a terrorist organization and have arrested thousands of its members, sentencing many of its top leaders, including Morsi, to life sentences or even death.

The latest arrests came just two days after French President Emmanuel Macron urged respect for human rights in a meeting with Sisi during a state visit to Cairo.

Sisi, who led the overthrow of Morsi in 2013, was elected president the following year. He won reelection last year after all serious potential rivals were arrested or pressured into withdrawing from the race.

In recent years, authorities have banned unauthorized protests, blocked hundreds of websites and silenced nearly all independent media. Journalists, bloggers and scholars have been arrested for criticizing the government.

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.

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