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Socialists arrested in Cairo



A clampdown on opposition activity in Egypt has seen the arrests of three socialist activists, and the hitherto moderate MP, Ayman Nour, the head of the recently formed Al-Ghad (Tomorrow) opposition party who was arrested as he left parliament on 29th January.

According to the Egyptian paper Al Ahram, the three activists were arrested at the Cairo Book Fair for allegedly possessing leaflets that incite hatred of the regime. The leaflets in question were invitations to a 4 February demonstration organised by the Egyptian Popular Movement for Change (EPMC) against President Hosni Mubarak's re-nomination for a fifth presidential term. The EPMC, along with other activist groups, held the first ever anti-Mubarak demonstration in downtown Cairo last December under the slogan kifaya (enough). This coalition of activists - who include Nasserites, socialists and Islamists - was set up last year with the express purpose of opposing Mubarak's re-nomination for a fifth term.

The opposition coalition is demanding a change in the constitution to allow contested presidential elections. Currently the Egyptian constitution requires that a presidential candidate must have the support of one third of MPs, and two thirds of the People's Assembly before his name is put before the public in a yes/no referendum. This means it is impossible for President Mubarak to be challenged at the ballot box. Elections for the parliament are conducted under a 24 year-old Emergency Law and there is massive vote rigging, which gives the ruling pro-American National Democratic Party (NDP) an effective monopoly of power.

Ziyad El-Elami, lawyer for the activists, says Marwa Farouk and Baho Abdallah were standing at the fair's Socialist Studies Centre (SSC) booth when security personnel approached them, and asked them to go to the fair's police station. Ibrahim El-Sahhary was arrested when he went to the police to find out what had happened. The SSC was selling a book called A Socialist Vision for Change in Egypt, a compilation of articles on the debate about the president's re-nomination for a fifth term. A statement issued by the SSC said that Abdallah was merely standing at the booth with her friend Farouk when the arrest took place, and has nothing to do with the centre's work. El-Elami said the police confiscated Abdallah's British passport. Fortunately, the two women have now been released, but Ibrahim El Sahhary remains in custody.

Phil Marfleet says that the Stop the War Coalition in London has received this message from activists in Cairo before the release of the two activists: "We can use all the solidarity you can mobilize for us. A delegation went to the office of the prosecutor-general and submitted the 2,000 signatures on the petition against Mubarak and stating that they should be equally 'charged' since they constitute the founders of the Popular Campaign for Change. Our morale is high as is that of our three friends. Everybody is determined to proceed with our activities. Everybody can see now that there is no other choice." Solidarity must continue until Ibrahim El Sahhary is also free.

Both Ibrahim and Marwa were arrested for anti-war activities in April 2003. Ibrahim told Amnesty International on his release later that year that he was blindfolded and severely beaten during his detention. Hundreds of anti-war protestors were arrested during demonstrations in March 2003 against the invasion of Iraq and many were tortured in custody.

International solidarity to secure the release of Ibrahim is essential. This attack, part of intensive efforts by the Egyptian government to silence democracy activists, gives added importance to the presence of international delegates at the Third Cairo Conference: International Campaign against US Aggression (Thursday 24 to Sunday 27 March) Invitation

Please also send messages of solidarity to: office@stopwar.org.uk. They will be forwarded to Cairo.
 

Messages of protest to:
His Excellency Mr Faruq Sayf al-Nasr
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice
Midan Lazoghly, Cairo, Egypt
Tel: + 202 795 8103
Telegram: Minister of Justice, Cairo, Egypt
Counsellor Maher 'Abd al-Wahid
Public Prosecutor
Dar al-Qadha al-'Ali
Ramses Street, Cairo, Egypt
Tel: + 202 577 4716
Telegram: Public Prosecutor, Cairo, Egypt

Copies to:
H.E. Mr Gehad Refaat Madi
Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
26 South Street
London W1Y 6DD
UK
Tel: + 44 20 7 409 2236

 

February 2005

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