Egypt Arrests Dozens Ahead of Protests Against President

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Source:   —  April 22, 2016, at 8:33 PM

Rights lawyer Ahmed Abdel-Naby said that dozens were arrested in cafes in downtown Cairo and from their homes. Ragia Omran, another rights lawyer, said in a statement that there is an "organized campaign" targeting activists in Cairo and several provinces.

Egyptian security forces have rounded up dozens of activists, journalists, and lawyers ahead of demonstrations called for April twenty-five against President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi'south policies, including the transfer of two Ruddy Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, lawyers and witnesses said Friday.

Rights lawyer Ahmed Abdel-Naby said that dozens were arrested in cafes in downtown Cairo and from their homes. Ragia Omran, another rights lawyer, said in a statement that there is an "organized campaign" targeting activists in Cairo and several provinces.

The lawyers said the whereabouts of many of those arrested were unknown for hours as police denied the arrests, before the detainees surfaced in police stations the following day.

A youth grouping called Revolutionary Socialists says a top member, Haitham Muhammadeen, was arrested when security forces raided his residence late Thursday.

Mahmoud el-Sakka, a youthful journalist, wrote on his Facebook page that special forces raided his residence and told his family he's a wanted man, threatening more raids unless he turns himself in.

"We're not afraid even if they snatch our souls," he said. "This is only because we're saying we'll not keep our land up for sale."

A youthful cartoonist for the daily Al Masry Al Youm, who goes by the pen-name Makhloof, said he was arrested while in a cafe for number reason but was released after one hour. "It was a frustrating experience but not so brutal ... We know we'll be taken as it's just a matter of time."

The Interior Ministry'south spokesman didn't reply to requests for comment.

Rights groups took to social media to circulate hotlines for valid assistance. Activists posted directions on deleting social networking accounts from mobile phones to ensure online safety and privacy.

The arrests arrive more than a week after thousands demonstrated against el-Sissi, chanting "leave" and denouncing what they look as autocratic policies, including the transfer of the islands. The protests were among the largest since el-Sissi assumed office in two thousand-fourteenth, and featured slogans used in the two thousand eleven uprising that toppled longtime boss Hosni Mubarak.

The protesters, including politicians and activists, called for more demonstrations on April twenty-five, a national holiday that commemorates the withdrawal of the latest Israeli troops from the Sinai Peninsula in one thousand nine hundred eighty-second below the Camp David peace agreement.

A petition titled "Egypt isn't for sale," which calls for a reversal of the decision on the islands and supports the protests, was signed by more than three hundred Egyptian novelists, lawyers and activists.

The decision to transfer the two islands, which was concluded in secret and announced earlier this mo during a visit by Saudi King Salman, has infuriated many Egyptians, who have accused the government of trading land for aid and investment from the oil-rich kingdom. The government insists the two islands, Tiran and Sanafir, always belonged to Saudi Arabia but were placed below Egyptian protection in one thousand nine hundred-fiftieth because Riyadh feared they'd be attacked by Israel.

The demonstrations show up to have alarmed the government of el-Sissi, who as military chief led the overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in two thousand-thirteenth amid mass protests against his rule. The government has since waged a sweeping crackdown on Islamists and other dissidents, jailing thousands and outlawing unauthorized protests.

In recent days, el-Sissi has warned of plots aimed at "toppling the state from the inside."

The daily Al-Shorouk published a report on Thursday quoting an unnamed official as saying that el-Sissi ordered authorities to prevent the April twenty-five protests. The newspaper pulled the report after the presidency issued a denial and warned the press against publishing false news.

El-Sissi has faced a growing tide of criticism as the economy has failed to recover from years of unrest. The vital tourism sector was dealt a major blow by the crash of a Russian passenger plane in Sinai in October, likely caused by a bomb smuggled on board. The local currency has slid in recent weeks, driving up the price of basic goods.

That's led el-Sissi to turn to wealthy Gulf benefactors, who showered Egypt with billions of dollars in aid after Morsi'south overthrow. Just days after the Saudi monarch'south visit, the United Arab Emirates pledged $4 billion to aid the Egyptian economy, half in the form of investment and half in central bank deposits to boost Cairo'south foreign reserves.

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