CAIRO – The executive director of one of Egypt’s leading human rights groups was arrested on Thursday night, the group said, joining two officers detained earlier this week and thousands of opposition figures, protesters and activists already in prison. .
The rights group, the Egyptian Personal Rights Initiative, is one of the few remaining organizations that openly advocates for fundamental freedoms in Egypt, where the government led by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has silenced the most disagreements in six years.
Mr al-Sisi had found an ally in President Trump, who called Mr al-Sisi his “favorite dictator”
Yet recent arrests show that political repression in Egypt continues.
The human rights group said its director, Gasser Abdel-Razek, was arrested at his Cairo home on Thursday night, four days after the arrest of the group’s office manager, Mohamed Bashir, and a day after that of criminal justice director Karim Enara. Mr Bashir was taken from his home and Mr Enara was arrested while on holiday at a seaside resort on the Red Sea.
Mr Basheer and Mr Ennarah were detained for 15 days on terrorism charges, which the group said were allegations of joining a terrorist organization and disseminating false information. Egyptian state prosecutors have added them as defendants in a case against prominent activists, human rights lawyers and journalists, which is already under way.
The group called Mr Bashir’s arrest on Sunday an “unprecedented escalation” and part of “ongoing repression aimed at intimidating and intimidating legal and human rights professionals as well as social and political activists”.
Egyptian authorities have not specified the exact reasons for the arrests, although the group met with more than a dozen ambassadors and diplomats, most of them from Europe, on November 3rd to discuss human rights issues. The meeting was no secret: The group posted a photo of her on Facebook.
European diplomats from the countries represented at the meeting are urging the government to release the men.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab raised the arrests in a conversation with Egypt’s foreign minister this week. The French Foreign Ministry issued a statement expressing “deep concern”, sending a sharp remark from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, whose spokesman Ahmed Hafez dismissed the French statement as “interference” in Egypt’s affairs.
Mr Hafez said that “the Egyptian state respects the rule of law”, the ministry said in a statement. “Workers in any field must comply with the laws governing that area,” he added, “and those who violate the regulations are responsible.”
Nada Rashwan contributed to the reporting.