Cairo has taken several measures recently to counter allegations of torture and repression.
A former diplomat and six political activists have been jailed for 15 days pending investigations over “terror” charges, Youm7 website reported (24/8).
Masom Marzok had urged in a Facebook statement on August 5th for a poll on the continuation of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s rule. The statement has been condemned in the Egyptian media, while some Egyptian social media users welcomed Marzok’s call for a referendum.
A coalition of Egyptian opposition forces, the Civil Democratic Movement (CVM), condemned the latest round of arrests, saying that it is a “systematic policy followed by the regime to silence any opposing voice,” noted BBC Monitoring (27/8).
Meanwhile, President Sisi has signed off on a law tightening controls over the Internet in the country, according to AFP (18/8). The legislation on “cybercrime” allows authorities to order the blocking of websites that “constitute a threat” to national security. Those who administer or visit such websites can now face jail time and fines.
The law is one of a series of measures that rights groups complain are aimed at curbing freedom of expression online, with the Internet one of the last forums for public debate over Sisi’s rule.
More than 500 websites have already been blocked in Egypt prior to the new law, according to the Cairo-based Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression.
Egypt’s government on August 29th announced the establishment of a state-run human rights committee to respond to allegations of widespread abuses levelled against Cairo, AFP reported (28/9). The new rights committee is tasked with “dealing with and responding to claims being expressed against Egypt on human rights,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Image: Kremlin 2015
Former military chief Sisi was elected leader in 2014, the year after he led the ouster of president Mohamed Mursi amid mass protests against the Islamist’s rule. Sisi in March won a second term with 97% at a vote in which he faced only one opponent.
Hundreds of opposition figures, especially those linked to Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood and the January 2011 uprising that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak, are in jail or banned from leaving the country.
In August, a court in Cairo sentenced Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie to life in prison, alongside leading figures Essam al-Eryan and Mohammed al-Beltagy, for their participation in violence following Mursi’s removal from office in 2013, according to BBC Monitoring (12/8). Former minister of supplies Bassem Ouda, who faced charges in the same case, was sentenced to 15 years.
In a rare case against law enforcement over alleged abuses in custody, six Egyptian policemen were charged on August 19th with torturing a prisoner to death, AFP reported (19/8). Prosecutors alleged the officers tortured a young man accused of robbery to death in June at a police station in Cairo after conducting an autopsy on the body, state-run newspaper Al-Ahram said.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian authorities have released 2,376 prisoners on the occasion of the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha. Those released included 627 debt defaulters, who have been released via funding of the Tahya Misr (“Long Live Egypt”) Fund upon a presidential pardon, the state news agency MENA reported (21/8). The interior ministry’s prison also released 661 others on parole, it said. (Sources as referenced in text)
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