EU condemns Egypt over wave of activist arrests
The European Union has condemned Egyptian authorities over a wave of arrests of activists since presidential elections earlier this year, prompting an angry response from Cairo.
European External Action Service, the EU's diplomatic arm, made the criticism on Wednesday in an online statement.
"Stability and security can only go hand in hand with the full respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms," the statement said.
"The increasing number of arrests of human rights defenders, activists and bloggers in Egypt is therefore a worrying development," it added.
This week, Egyptian police arrested a one-time campaigner for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who became a critic of the former military chief.
Hazim Abdelazim's detention follows that of other bloggers this month, including Wael Abbas who was arrested at his home on Wednesday, Sherif Gaber, and Shady Abuzaid, known for his YouTube and Facebook videos.
Earlier last week, an Egyptian military court sentenced journalist and researcher Ismail Alexandrani to 10 years in prison.
Egypt's foreign ministry spokesman responded to the criticism on Wednesday in a statement, denying any wrongdoing.
"No one in Egypt gets arrested or tried because of their activity in the field of human rights, or for criticising the Egyptian government, but instead for committing crimes," Ahmed Abu Zeid said.
Since 2013, international human rights groups have criticised Sisi's government for cracking down on secular and left-wing activists, as well as Islamists close to the banned Muslim Brotherhood.
Amnesty International has condemned the recent arrests a "new low in Egypt's crackdown on freedom of expression".