At least 15 activists and lawyers were arrested this afternoon when Egyptian security forces stormed the Alexandria offices of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights for the second time in six months, a move Amnesty International called a blow to the freedoms of association and assembly.
According to one of the detained lawyers, who was released after two hours, the security forces chased people down the stairs and into side streets, beating the activists with their hands and rifle butts as they took them into custody. Female activists were allegedly sexually harassed and cursed during the arrests. The security forces also confiscated equipment.
“This fresh raid on the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights is the next step in the escalating crackdown on critical voices in Egypt,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.
“In a context of almost daily arrest and imprisonment of government critics, this latest raid may be the prelude to a broader crackdown on NGOs. Anyone arrested solely for protesting peacefully or participating in a conference to denounce human rights violations must be released immediately and unconditionally.
“The Egyptian authorities must ensure that human rights organizations can carry out their work in the country without hindrance. They must order an independent and impartial investigation into today’s raid and the reports that activists were subjected to ill-treatment.”
The raid took place around 14:00 this afternoon, as the Center hosted a conference in solidarity with well-known activist Mahinour El-Masry, who was yesterday sentenced to two years in prison for “protesting without authorization”. More than 150 people reportedly attended, and staged a demonstration in the street outside the Center before the police stormed the offices.
Among those arrested were Mohamed Awad, the Center’s lawyer, and Mostafa Eissa, a photographer, and two under the age of 18. The rest of those detained were among the conference attendees. The detainees were taken to Alexandria Security Directorate and released several hours later.