Tens of pro-Sisi protesters gather near Press Syndicate

Wednesday 04-05-2016 12:57 PM

Journalists gather outside the Press Syndicate in downtown Cairo ahead of an emergency general assembly meeting on May 4, 2016. The syndicate announced it would hold the meeting after security forces raided the syndicate's headquarters on May 1 and arreste

CAIRO, May 4 (Aswat Masriya) - Tens of pro-government supporters gathered near the Press Syndicate’s headquarters on Wednesday as the syndicate’s general assembly is poised to hold an emergency meeting to discuss a police raid on the syndicate and the arrest of two journalists. 

Egyptian security forces raided the press syndicate’s headquarters in downtown Cairo on Sunday and arrested two journalists who had been sitting in at the building.

Prosecution had issued a warrant for the two journalists' arrest on charges of inciting protests, attempting to overthrow the regime and broadcasting false news with the aim of disturbing public peace.  

The warrant for the two journalists’ arrest and the charges leveled against them come against a backdrop of protests that were held in April against Sisi’s decision to transfer control over two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. 

Aswat Masriya’s correspondent reported that tens of pro-government protesters gathered outside the syndicate's headquarters near the metal barricades that had been set up by security forces to express support for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Protesters chanted the slogan "We love you, Sisi."

On the other hand, journalists who are not members of the Press Syndicate and who do not hold membership cards, including online journalists and foreign reporters, were prevented by security forces from entering the syndicate’s headquarters to cover today’s general assembly meeting, Aswat Masriya's correspondent added. 

A security source told Aswat Masriya that tight security measures have been imposed in the area, and that security forces will inspect ID cards and allow holders of the syndicate's membership card only to enter the building.

A controversial assembly law issued in 2013 imposes restrictions on protests and stipulates that protesters must obtain the interior ministry's approval before staging any demonstration. 

The syndicate’s head Yehia Qallash told a press conference on Tuesday that they will continue to escalate against the interior ministry until the minister is dismissed. They filed an official complaint with the prosecution against the interior minister, accusing the ministry of “storming” into the syndicate

The interior ministry, however, had denied on Monday storming the building or using force to arrest the two journalists, saying that Badr and Saqqa handed themselves over to the police “once they were informed of the arrest warrant" that had been issued for them.

The handover of the two islands, Tiran and Sanafir, provoked anger by critics who accused Sisi of “selling Egyptian land” in return for Saudi aid. 

Thousands of protesters had staged a protest in downtown Cairo under the slogan “Friday of the Land” on April 15, marking a rare expression of public anger. The demonstrations ended then but protesters agreed to protest again on April 25, ahead of which the police launched a campaign of mass arrests to prevent activists from rallying large numbers for the planned protests.

The interior ministry's raid on the syndicate and previous alleged violations by the ministry, as well as Sisi's decision to hand over the two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, sparked a wave of anger against the president, who was elected with a sweeping majority in 2014 after leading a military ouster of then-President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood, following mass protests against Mursi's rule. Sisi was the country's defence minister under Mursi. 

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