Egyp­tian rights group says 237 protesters ar­rested in Cairo

Pakistan Observer - - FRONT PAGE -

CAIRO—An Egyp­tian coali­tion of rights groups said Tues­day that po­lice ar­rested at least 237 peo­ple dur­ing the pre­vi­ous day’s protests in Cairo against a govern­ment de­ci­sion to hand over to Saudi Ara­bia con­trol of two strate­gic Red Sea is­lands.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional con­demned the ar­rests, the latest crit­i­cism lev­elled by the lead­ing in­ter­na­tional ad­vo­cacy group over hu­man rights abuses in Egypt.

Rights lawyers Ga­mal Eid and Mo­hammed Ab­del-Aziz — both mem­bers of the Front for the De­fense of Egyp­tian Protesters — said that all those de­tained were in cus­tody by mid­night Mon­day when the front made its last tally.

The num­ber of those still held could be lower since po­lice have been in­ter­mit­tently re­leas­ing the de­tainees, they said. It’s un­clear if any­one has been re­ferred to prose­cu­tors.

Thou­sands of po­lice were de­ployed across much of Cairo on Mon­day to sti­fle plans for mass demon­stra­tions called to protest the govern­ment’s de­ci­sion to sur­ren­der the is­lands of Ti­ran and Sanafir.

Faced with the po­lice’s over­whelm­ing num­bers, protesters re­sorted to stag­ing flash demon­stra­tions in Cairo, draw­ing tear gas and bird­shot from the riot po­lice.

The ar­rest of 237 peo­ple, mostly in Cairo but also some in the Egyp­tian cap­i­tal’s twin city of Giza, fol­lowed the de­ten­tion of nearly 100 in predawn house raids and roundups at cafes in down­town Cairo, a pop­u­lar han­gout for young, pro-democ­racy ac­tivists. Those ar­rests mainly tar­geted rights ac­tivists and jour­nal­ists. Amnesty crit­i­cized the ar­rests and the use of vi­o­lence against protesters in a statement Tues­day.

“The Egyp­tian au­thor­i­ties ap­pear to have or­ches­trated a heavy-handed and ruth­lessly ef­fi­cient cam­paign to squash this protest be­fore it even be­gan,” said Mag­dalena Mughrabi of the group’s Mid­dle East and North Africa sec­tion. “Mass ar­rests, road blocks and huge de­ploy­ments of se­cu­rity forces made it im­pos­si­ble for peace­ful demon­stra­tions to take place.”

Au­thor­i­ties say the ob­jec­tive of the large de­ploy­ment of po­lice was to protect vi­tal in­stal­la­tions and Egyp­tians cel­e­brat­ing a hol­i­day mark­ing the fi­nal Is­raeli pull­out from the Si­nai Penin­sula in 1982.

Egypt says the is­lands of Ti­ran and Sanafir at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba off the south­ern coast of Si­nai be­long to Saudi Ara­bia, which placed them un­der Cairo’s pro­tec­tion in 1950 be­cause it feared Is­rael might at­tack them.

The an­nounce­ment that they would be re­turned to the Saudis was made dur­ing a visit to Egypt this month by Saudi Ara­bia’s King Sal­man as the king­dom an­nounced a multi-bil­lion-dol­lar aid pack­age to Egypt. The tim­ing fu­eled charges that the is­lands were sold off. Al­ready, the is­sue of the is­lands has sparked the largest protests since el-Sissi as­sumed power in June 2014, when on April 15 some 2,000 protesters gath­ered in down­town Cairo to shout slo­gans against el-Sissi for giv­ing up the is­lands, call­ing on him to step down. El-Sissi has dis­missed the con­tro­versy and in­sists Egypt has not sur­ren­dered an “inch” of its ter­ri­tory.

Egyp­tians demon­strate against President Ab­del-Fat­tah el-Sissi in Me­saha Square in Cairo.

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