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6 members of Egypt’s Istiqlal Party arrested at dawn

Egyptian protesters gather in downtown Cairo shouting anti-government slogans during a demonstration in Suez, Egypt on 22 September 2019. [Stringer - Anadolu Agency]
Egyptians gather in Cairo and protest against the government on 22 September 2019 [Stringer/Anadolu Agency]

Six members of the Istiqlal Party in Egypt were arrested at dawn today as Egypt moves to crackdown on anyone supporting recent demonstrations in the country, Ahmed El-Attar, a rights activist working for the the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), has told MEMO.

On Friday Egyptians took to the street to express their frustration with the Sisi government after discontent swelled following a series of videos released by Egyptian contractor Mohamed Ali confirmed that the government and army are embroiled in widespread corruption.

Thousands of people have called on the general turned president to step down after revelations that Al-Sisi and his circle are pouring money into vanity projects rather than on services desperately needed by the people, who are reeling from severe austerity measures.

Istiqlal Party recently released a statement in support of the protests, asking demonstrators to go to Tahrir Square at 2pm today.

Among the party members arrested are Secretary General Magdi Kerqar, Secretary Mohammed Al-Amir, lawyer and human rights activist Sahar Ali, Secretary of the Membership Committee Ahmed Al-Qazzaz, Secretary of Information in Manzala, Mohamed Al-Qadousi, and member of the Youth Union Mohammed Shadi.

Also this morning Media Secretary Shawqi Rajab’s house was broken into and his house turned upside down, but he had gone into hiding. There is now a warrant out for his arrest.

Several others were arrested yesterday including Party Secretary Mohammed Murad. Security forces returned to his house on Monday to arrest his son and steal 30,000 Egyptian pounds ($1,838.)

READ: Urgent request to revoke the nationality of Mohamed Ali

The members have been forcibly disappeared and nobody knows of their whereabouts. It is the first time since the Muslim Brotherhood that an entire political party has been cracked down on by the state, says El-Attar.

Although the arrests appear to be in connection with the recent wave of protests, the Istiqlal Party has been under the radar of security forces for some time now.

In June they raided politician and member Osama Al-Aqbawi’s house and when they could not find him, arrested his daughter Mawadda Osama Al-Aqbawi, a student.

Even when her father handed himself in, they arrested him and refused to release Mawadda, adding her to the list of defendants in the Hope Alliance case, a coalition of MPs, party leaders, young people and journalists who were preparing to run in the 2020 parliamentary elections and who now face charges of coordinating with the Muslim Brotherhood to “bring down the state”.

In response to the recent demonstrations Egyptian authorities have blocked websites, including BBC Arabic. The obsequious press has accused websites of publishing fabricated pictures and videos as part of a media campaign against Al-Sisi.

On Thursday Egyptian authorities arrested revolutionary icon Wael Ghoneim’s brother after Wael posted a video of himself calling on the Egyptian president to prove “he has a heart” and apologise to his predecessor Mohamed Morsi’s widow for losing her husband, who died during a trial, and then her son, who died of a heart attack at the beginning of September.

According to the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights, at least 516 people have been arrested since the protests erupted on Friday.

Istiqlal’s calls for demonstrators to fill Tahrir will be difficult given that eyewitnesses report the square has become a “military base”, with a vast amount of soldiers who are stopping citizens and demanding they check their social media profiles for any sign of dissent.

READ: After sudden raid of his cell, opposition prisoner dies in Egyptian prison

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