Prominent Egyptian activist and blogger, Wael Abbas, was been arrested by Egyptian authorities in the early hours of the morning.
Abbas was taken during a 4am raid on his Cairo home and his computer and mobile phone were seized. Following the raid, Abbas was blindfolded, transported to an unknown location and prevented from contacting his lawyer, according to the Arab Network for Human Rights.
Abbas announced his arrest on his Facebook page by writing “I am being detained.” His current whereabouts remains unknown, prompting friends and followers to launch the Arabic hashtag “where_is_Wael_Abbas” on Twitter. Egyptian security officials have confirmed his arrest, adding that Abbas was detained on accusations of disseminating false news and joining an outlawed group.
Abbas has long been vocal about the political situation in Egypt both before and after the uprising of 2011, regularly campaigning against torture and publishing graphic videos showing torture and police abuse on his blog, misrdigital.com. In 2006, he was named among the BBC’s “Most Influential Persons” and he has previously received awards for his work from Human Rights Watch and CNN. In 2007, his YouTube account was shut down, resulting in the removal of hundreds of videos showing protests and abuses by security forces. He has also been detained on a number of previous occasions.
Former managing editor of Daily News Egypt, Rana Allam, told Al Jazeera: “Wael writes all the time, and when he doesn’t write, he uses social media to speak out and provides people with information about what is happening around them. He doesn’t budge and has been doing what many of us can no longer do. This is all very scary for the government.”
Abbas’ arrest has been seen as the latest in a string of enforced disappearances conducted by the Egyptian authorities. Journalists have come under particularly stringent crackdowns, as just last month Egyptian freelancer Ismail Alexandrani was sentenced to ten years in prison by a military court in Cairo for being a member of a banned organisation and spreading false news.
Deputy Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Robert Mahoney, said that “hauling a journalist before a military court not only violates [Alexandrani’s] rights as a civilian but sends a chilling message to the media that independent coverage of political dissent and security threats will not be tolerated by Egypt’s rulers.”
Enforced disappearances have been widely used as a tool of repression under the rule of Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, the current Egyptian president who came to power my means of a military coup in 2013.
The Egyptian Commissions for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) documented 378 cases of enforced disappearances between August 2016 and August 2017 alone, though numbers are believed to be higher since many families fear that reporting disappearances could inadvertently put loved ones in jeopardy, according to Al-Monitor.