State-affiliated rights council criticizes arrest, detention of Apr. 25 protesters

Wednesday 27-04-2016 07:37 PM

Activists protest Sisi's transfer of the Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia in front of the Journalists' Syndicate on April 15th, 2016. ASWAT MASRIYA

CAIRO, Apr 27 (Aswat Masriya) - Egypt's state-affiliated human rights council criticized the procedures taken by security forces against protesters on Apr. 25 as "a violation of the constitution".

The National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) said in a statement on Wednesday that actions taken by security forces, which included "indiscriminate arrests" and detention, are unconstitutional and fatigued detainees' families, who were unable to determine the whereabouts of their sons.

Last week, the interior ministry raised the security alert to the maximum and tightened measures in preparation for the then-planned Apr. 25 protests, called for by several political factions and groups who rejected a decision by the government, announced earlier in April, to hand over control over two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. 

The Egyptian government had announced on Apr. 9 that it signed a maritime border demarcation agreement with Saudi Arabia, stipulating that the islands of Tiran and Sanafir will be part of Saudi territorial waters.

The agreement stirred up controversy among analysts and politicians and on social networking websites, with critics blaming the government for "selling Egypt" and arguing that the two islands are Egyptian. Others defended the agreement, saying the islands never belonged to Egypt.

On Apr. 15, thousands of protesters gathered outside the press syndicate to express their rejection of the border agreement under the slogan "Friday of the Land", marking a rare expression of public anger. The demonstrations ended then but protesters agreed to protest again on Apr. 25, which coincides with Sinai Liberation Day.

A few days prior to Apr. 25, security forces launched a series of raids on downtown Cairo’s cafés and arrested at least 40 people. Though most of them were released, some remain in detention and are under investigation.

On the day of the planned protests, security forces blocked the roads leading to the press syndicate, where protests were planned, and cordoned off the area.


According to a statement by the syndicate on Monday, security forces used the help of "groups of thugs" in an attempt to storm the syndicate's headquarters. Meanwhile, several journalists were denied entry to the syndicate in what the syndicate described as a "crime against the syndicate and journalists."

A security source told Aswat Masriya on Tuesday that as many as 270 protesters were arrested on Monday. The Giza Security Directorate arrested 120 protesters in the Giza province, including from Dokki's Messaha Sqaure, Bulaq, Nahia and Faisal; and arrested some of them from nearby cafes, the security source said.

Meanwhile, 150 protesters were arrested from various spots in Cairo and are being examined in central security camps, the source added.

According to "Freedom of the Brave", an initiative that provides support for detainees,  a total of 382 people have been arrested throughout the past two weeks across Egypt since the Apr. 15 protests.

NCHR said in its statement that all these actions "contradict the President's emphasis on the commitment of all state institutions to work towards establishing a civil modern democratic state." 

The U.S.-based watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the arrests that took place "in the days leading up to and during the dispersal of mostly peaceful protests on April 25, 2016," in a statement on Wednesday.

HRW Deputy Middle East director Nadim Houry called for the release of those arrested "solely" for expressing themselves peacefully. "Egyptian authorities are trying to stifle any public discussion of al-Sisi’s policies," he said.

“It seems that the only public demonstrations al-Sisi will allow are the ones that support him," he added.

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