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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Egypt hits back at critics of rights group arrests

Arrests in Egypt are widespread [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 November, 2020

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Egypt's foreign ministry dismissed global criticism of its arrests of three staff members of a the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR).

Egypt's foreign ministry on Saturday dismissed the international criticism of its arrests of three staff members of a leading human rights group.

Ahmed Hafez, the ministry's spokesman, "rejects any attempt to affect the investigations conducted by the public prosecution with Egyptian citizens who have charges levelled against them", the ministry said in a statement.

Hafez said "national sovereignty must be respected as well as not meddling in domestic affairs".

Several European countries, the United States and United Nations have condemned the detention this week of members of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR).

Read also: Why you should care about the latest arrests of human rights defenders in Egypt

The ministry said it was reacting to "false conclusions drawn in news coverage and on social media platforms".

The staffers, Mohamed Basheer, Karim Ennara and Gasser Abdel-Razek, have been detained on charges including "joining a terror group" and "spreading false news", it said. 

They have been placed in pre-trial detention for 15 days -- which under Egyptian law can be extended and last up to two years.

They were arrested after several ambassadors and other diplomats visited EIPR's Cairo office on November 3.

Antony Blinken, US President-elect Joe Biden's foreign policy advisor, tweeted Friday: "Meeting with foreign diplomats is not a crime. Nor is peacefully advocating for human rights."

Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders weighed in, saying the arrests were "an outrage".

"The incoming administration must make it clear to Egypt and all countries that, once again, the United States will support democracy, not dictatorship," he tweeted.

Rights groups estimate that about 60,000 detainees in Egypt are political prisoners.

These include secular activists, journalists, lawyers, academics and Islamists arrested in an ongoing, sweeping crackdown on dissent under President Abdel Fattah-al Sisi.

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