An Egyptian prosecutor ordered a lawyer detained for 15 days after publication of a picture of him wearing a yellow vest similar to those worn by French protesters, a local rights activist said.
The arrest in Alexandria came as traders said authorities blocked the sale of vests to forestall copycat protests ahead of the January 25 anniversary of Egypt’s 2011 uprising.
Since the election of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in 2014, Egypt has seen a crackdown on political opposition and dissent activists say is the most severe for decades.
The yellow safety vests area trademark of French demonstrators whose violent weekend protests since November 17 forced President Emmanuel Macron to cancel planned fuel tax increases and grant wage rises for the poor.
Alexandria’s public prosecutor ordered the detention of rights lawyer Mohamed Ramadan after publication of a picture of him sporting a yellow vest in solidarity with the French protesters, said Mahienour El Masry, an activist in the city.
Authorities consider the photo an incitement to similar protests, she said, adding Ramadan was also accused of charges including “spreading false news” and “spreading the ideology of a terrorist group”.
Two security sources said Ramadan was found in possession of eight vests. The Alexandria prosecutor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In downtown Cairo traders said they were stopped from selling vests to walk-in customers.
“They made us sign statements we won’t sell yellow vests,” said a trader who like others declined to give his name. “Anyone who sells a single vest will find himself in big trouble.”
He refused to sell any of yellow vests in his shop window, priced at just over $1. “They’re for display only,” he said.
An employee at another downtown shop said the restriction started on Saturday and would continue until January 25, the eighth anniversary of the popular uprising that toppled then-president Hosni Mubarak.
At a third shop, a worker said vests could only be supplied for commercial orders.
Security sources confirmed authorities stopped industrial security suppliers from selling the yellow vests.
“It is a question of caution, rather than fear,” said a source when asked if authorities were afraid of protests ahead of the anniversary.
In the crackdown since Sisi’s 2014 election, thousands of his opponents and critics as well as alleged Islamist militants and secular rights activists have been arrested.
Sisi’s backers say he is working to keep Egypt stable as it recovers from political turmoil after the 2011 uprising and tackles major economic challenges.
One activist said spontaneous protests such as those in France were now impossible in Egypt.
“Opposition political movements do not have a presence on the ground and current political parties are part of the regime,” said the activist, who asked to be identified only as Mustafa.
“More importantly, the location of all activists is now known. They are either in prison or in their houses subject to police supervision.”