Egypt arrests five left-wing activists as Macron meets Sisi

Egypt arrests five left-wing activists as Macron meets Sisi
3 min read
28 January, 2019
Egyptian police have arrested five members of leftist political parties after some of them took part in an event to mark the anniversary of the start of the 2011 uprising.
Rights groups have criticised Sisi's government for cracking down on secular and left-wing activists [Getty]

Egyptian police have arrested five members of leftist political parties after some of them took part in an event to mark the eighth anniversary of the start of the 2011 uprising, as French President began a controversial visit to Cairo.

Security forces on Monday arrested Gamal Abdel Fattah, a member of the Egyptian Socialist Party, and Ali al-Fadali of the left-wing Dignity Party, The New Arab's Arabic-language service reported.

On Saturday, police arrested three members of the Dignity Party after they took part in an event in Cairo to mark the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak.

According to the report, Abdel Fattah and Fadali were not present at the present at the event organised by the political party, which was founded by former presidential candidate and opposition leader Hamdeen Sabahi.

Abdel Fattah was released in September after seven months of detention over criticism towards the March 2018 elections that saw President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi win a landslide victory in the absence of any serious competition.

The arrests come days after Amnesty International said Egypt has become more dangerous than at any time in recent history for anyone openly criticising the government.

At least 113 people were arrested in 2018 over peacefully expressing their views, the UK-based watchdog said.

"Today it is more dangerous to openly criticise the government in Egypt than at any other time in the country's recent history," said Najia Bounaim, Amnesty International's North Africa campaigns director.

"Those living under Sisi have experienced an unprecedented assault that has seen those who peacefully express their views treated as criminals."

As army chief, Sisi led the overthrow of Egypt's first freely elected president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 after protests against the Islamist leader's rule.

Human rights groups have regularly criticised Sisi's government for cracking down on secular and left-wing activists, as well as the Islamist supporters of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group.

On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron said he would talk "more openly" to Sisi on human rights during his ongoing visit to the country.

"Things have got worse since October 2017" when Sisi came to Paris, said Macron, referring to the human rights situation in the North African country.  

Macron said he would "have a confidential dialogue" with his Egyptian counterpart on "individual cases" of imprisoned opponents. 

"I will speak in a more forthright manner, including openly... because I think that it is in the interests of President Sisi and Egyptian stability," the French head of state told reporters on the first day of his visit.

"Today, it is not simply political opponents who are imprisoned but also opponents who are in the traditional democratic camp, who do not threaten the stability of the regime.

"These are journalists, homosexuals, women and men who have convictions but who seem to pose absolutely no threat to the regime."