UN calls for release of blogger, lawyer and journalist


The UN human rights office called on Egypt to free a prominent blogger, lawyer and journalist allegedly mistreated in custody. They are among several thousand people detained since street protests began a month ago.

Officials at Egypt’s interior ministry were not immediately available for comment. The state prosecutor’s office said in September it questioned up to a thousand suspects who took part in demonstrations.

About 3 400 people were arrested since protests began, including 300 since released, according to the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, an independent body.

“Unfortunately arrests are continuing and include well-known and respected civil society figures,” UN human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told a news briefing.

Protests against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo and elsewhere followed online calls for demonstrations against alleged government corruption.

Sisi, first elected in 2014 after, while army chief, leading the 2013 overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, has overseen a crackdown on dissent ranging from liberal to Islamist groups – the most severe in recent memory, rights groups say.

Journalist and activist Esraa Abdelfattah was arrested by plainclothes security officers in Cairo on October 12 and reportedly beaten after she refused to unlock her mobile phone, Shamdasani said. Abdelfattah is on a hunger strike, she added.

Alaa Abdel Fattah, a blogger and software engineer, was released in March after serving a five-year sentence for protesting without permission, but was re-arrested on September 29, Shamdasani said. His lawyer was arrested the same day while attending the interrogation, Shamdasani added.

Abdel Fattah was shit by guards while forced down a corridor in his underwear and al-Baqer was subjected to physical and verbal abuse and denied water and medical aid, she said.

Ivan Surkos, European Union ambassador to Egypt, tweeted he raised concerns over detained activists with Ahmed Gamal Eddin, Assistant Foreign Minister for Human Rights.

“Will my messages end as (a) dialogue of deaf persons? Let’s hope not,” Surkos said.