Security forces release dozens of Egyptian protesters without charge

Security forces release dozens of Egyptian protesters without charge
3 min read
21 September, 2019
Dozens of protesters detained by Egypt security forces were released early on Saturday, but over 100 more remain in custody, sources told The New Arab.
Police fired tear gas and deployed forces in Tahrir Square [AFP]
Dozens of protesters were released on Saturday after they had been rounded up and detained by Egyptian security forces while staging overnight demonstrations in Cairo and other Egyptian cities, calling for the removal of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Yet, more than 100 of those arrested remain held for interrogations, a source told The New Arab, which added that some were transferred early on Saturday to the headquarters of the National Security Agency in Cairo.

The protesters who remain detained are likely to be linked to political movements, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, the source said.

Hundreds of citizens took to the streets late on Friday to protest, chanting slogans including "Leave, Sisi!" and holding up placards.

The country effectively banned protests under a 2013 law and a state of emergency is still in full effect. 

Police fired tear gas and deployed forces in Tahrir Square - the epicentre of the 2011 revolution that unseated long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

The protests came on the back of an online call put out by Mohamed Ali, a disgruntled exiled Egyptian businessman, demanding Sisi be toppled. 

The construction contractor has been posting videos from Spain that have gone viral since early September, accusing Sisi and the military of rampant corruption.

The president flatly denied the allegations last week at a youth conference and sought to assure Egyptians that he "was honest and faithful" to his people and the military. 

In his latest video posted early on Friday morning on his growing social media accounts, Ali urged Egyptians to head to the streets after a highly anticipated football match between Cairo powerhouses Al -Ahly and Zamalek in the Super Cup. 

Thousands shared footage on social media documenting the demonstrations that sprang up in several cities including sizeable crowds blocking traffic in Alexandria, Al-Mahalla, Damietta, Mansoura and Suez.

Dangers of protesting 

Under the rule of general-turned-president Sisi, authorities have launched a broad crackdown on dissidents, jailing thousands of Islamists as well as secular activists and popular bloggers.

He led the military ouster of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 and won back to back landslide elections running virtually unopposed.

At the same youth conference where he denied graft allegations, he also warned of the dangers of protesting - a position he has repeatedly taken. 

He has regularly invoked security and stability as hallmarks of his reign in contrast to the situations in regional hot spots such as Iraq, Libya and Syria. 

But with his government imposing strict austerity measures since 2016 as part of a $12 billion loan package from the International Monetary Fund, discontent over rising prices has been swelling.

Nearly one in three Egyptians live below the poverty line on less than $1.40 a day, according to official figures released in July.

Human Rights Watch urged authorities on Saturday to "protect the right" to protest peacefully as well as demanding that those arrested be released.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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