Prosecution reveals reasons for journalists arrest as anger mounts

Monday 02-05-2016 06:05 PM

Previous protest in front of the press syndicate, on Apr. 28, 2016. ASWAT MASRIYA / Asmaa Gamal

CAIRO, May 2 (Aswat Masriya) - Egypt's public prosecution revealed on Monday reasons behind the arrest of two journalists from inside the press syndicate late Sunday, an incident that provoked public controversy and calls by journalists to dismiss the current interior minister.  

The public prosecution said in a statement that prosecutors ordered the arrest of nine people, including the two journalists, after police investigations implicated them in " publishing false news and rumors and exploiting them to call and incite protests through social media networks [Facebook] in coincidence with Sinai Liberation Day on Apr. 25".

According to the statement, the wanted persons "exploited the demonstrations to clash with police forces and armed forces and to attack public facilities". The statement read that they had in their possession firearms, Molotov cocktails and inciting leaflets which "showed that those schemes inevitably will affect public security and peace, prompting public prosecution to issue an arrest warrant" .

The prosecution ordered also their residence to be inspected.

Security forces stormed the syndicate to arrest the two journalists, Amr Badr and Mahmoud al-Sakka, in what the syndicate described as an "unprecedented" incident.

Interior Ministry however denied earlier on Monday storming the syndicate's building or using force to arrest the two journalists. A ministry statement said that the journalists handed themselves in and that all the arrest procedures took place within the framework of the law.

However, the press syndicate demanded the sacking of the current Interior MInister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar and called for an emergency general assembly meeting on Wednesday to discuss the incident.

A number of Egyptian journalists have started on Sunday a sit-in at the press syndicate to protest the police raid of the building.

In a statement published on Facebook, several journalists announced the start of the sit-in and held " President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi responsible for this unprecedented crime, which is considered a flagrant assault on the freedom of the press, aimed at stopping journalists from exposing the regime’s crimes of killing, detaining and torturing thousands of Egyptians, and selling the islands of Tiran and Sanafir.”

In a controversial agreement last month, Egyptian government agreed to cede sovereignty over two Red Sea islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to Saudi Arabia.  Critics of the agreement argue that the two islands are Egyptian and accuse Al-Sisi of "selling Egypt" to Saudi Arabia in return for financial aid. 

The signing of the agreement prompted several political factions and public figures to call on people to protest on Apr. 25 in front of the press syndicate.

Days ahead of the planned protests, the interior ministry launched a mass arrest campaign and raided a number of cafes in Downtown Cairo.

On the day of the protests, the interior ministry cordoned off the area of the press syndicate and banned people from gathering.

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