Egypt bribes counter-protesters to fill out 100,000-strong pro-Sisi rally
After arresting more than 2,000 people in a sweeping crackdown over the past week, authorities are reportedly launching a counter-protest campaign that will pay, feed and transport people from their workplaces in order to fill out a pro-Sisi "ceremony" to counter any outbreak of anti-regime protests on Friday.
The counter-protest campaign, which allegedly aims to gather 100,000 people, comes as viral video sensation Mohamed Ali called for fresh protests against the president after Friday prayers this week.
Ali, a former military contractor now living in self-imposed exile in Spain, became "more popular than Netflix" in Egypt this month after releasing a series of videos alleging the Sisi regime squandered billions on lavish palaces and army residences, while a third of the Egyptian population live in poverty.
The allegations prompted thousands of Egyptians take to the streets in Cairo, Suez, Damietta and other cities on Friday and Saturday last week, in a rare show of public protest.
Hundreds of buses will transport people to the pro-Sisi rally in the Nasr City suburb of Cairo after prayers on Friday.
The regime is arranging various entertainment to attract crowds to the pro-Sisi rally, with reports it has invited well-known Emirati singer Hussain Al Jassmi to perform.
Sisi has instructed the regime's media wing to dispatch army helicopters to photograph the crowds and broadcast live footage of the rally, sources told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service under condition of anonymity.
To ensure large crowds, the regime will allegedly pay money and provide meals to those bussed to the rally. Buses are also being charted from factories in order to transport large numbers of workers to fill out the gathering.
State companies such as the national oil company, telecoms companies, government offices and state-affiliated businesses have also been instructed to send their employees to the rally.
The employees will reportedly sign an attendance sheet at the rally and in return receive two days' worth of wages or two additional days of leave.
Meanwhile, Cairo has been put on lockdown with underground stations near Tahrir Square shut and a heavy security presence deployed on the streets.
In addition to the pro-Sisi efforts, the intelligence service has also been leading a disinformation campaign to smear the protest movement as under the influence of Islamists.
State television recently broadcast what it alleged to be a phone conversation where the leader of the Turkish Muslim Brotherhood, Ali Batikh, tells one of its Egyptian leaders to avoid churches and monasteries, warning that they are planned targets in a major terrorist attack.
Read more: Something had to give in Egypt
Critics have thrown cold water on the allegations, saying that the voice on the call does not match that of Batikh.
Amr Adeeb, widely regarded as a mouthpiece of the regime, has dedicated his show on state-affiliated channel MBC Masr to broadcasting so-called “confessions” of those arrested for protesting.
Several "admit" to being part of the Muslim Brotherhood, outlawed in Egypt as a "terrorist" organisation in 2013.
Most of its members are now imprisoned, making it highly improbable they have much of a hand in the recent protest wave.
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