Egyptian metro protest sees security forces deployed


Egypt deployed security forces outside metro stations, witnesses said, a day after more than 20 people were detained following protests at several metro stations by commuters angry at fare hikes.

Public discontent is on the rise in Egypt as government presses on with economic reforms, including curbs on state subsidies, agreed in a 2016 loan deal with the International Monetary Fund.

Security sources said at least 22 people were detained by police in “limited and sporadic protests” on Saturday at several metro stations by commuters demanding price hikes be reversed.

They said most were released, while three were detained for 24 hours pending further investigation.

A judicial source said the public prosecutor in Helwan ordered seven men and three women detained for four days for questioning on suspicion of illegal congregation at the metro station in the southern Cairo suburb, disturbing public order and obstructing a public facility.

The 10 could face up to five years in jail if charged and convicted, said their lawyer, Fatma Serag, of the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE).

Protests have become rare in Egypt since a law passed in 2013 banned demonstrations not approved by the Interior Ministry, taking away a right earned in the 2011 uprising.

Government says higher fares are needed to keep the loss-making metro running and to finance new extensions to serve more of the capital city’s 25 million people. More than three million people use the metro every day.

The price rises, which came into effect on Friday, saw the cost of some metro tickets triple.
“The increase will generate about a billion pounds,” Transportation Minister Hesham Arafat told private television channel Sada al-Balad, saying without the extra funds “the metro company cannot continue.”

State news agency MENA said the metro system accumulated losses of 617 million pounds.

Government previously angered Cairo residents when it doubled the price of many metro tickets last year.

There were no fresh protests on Sunday, the first day of the working week, but commuter numbers in the morning rush hour seemed lower than usual, witnesses said, adding security force vehicles and extra officers were outside several metro stations.

Videos posted on social media showed people jumping over ticket barriers at some stations, while at others protesters chanted slogans as police looked on. The authenticity of the recordings could not be confirmed.