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HRW slams Egypt’s ‘targeting of dissidents’ families’

Human Rights Watch logo [File photo]
Human Rights Watch logo [File photo]

Egyptian authorities have been carrying out arrests, house raids, interrogations, and travel bans against relatives of dissidents who live abroad, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said yesterday.

HRW noted that the arrests against dissidents’ families were carried out “in reprisal for their activism.” It added that it had documented 28 cases of Egyptian journalists, media workers, and political and human rights activists “who had criticised the government and now live abroad,” pointing out that the cases were occurring between 2016 and 2019.

Among the cases was the arrest of the brother of the well-known activist Wael Ghonim, after he had posted a series of videos on Facebook criticising Egyptian security agencies.

The rights organisation pointed out that the Egyptian regime had detained and prosecuted 20 relatives of 11 dissidents. It added that the local authorities had accused the relatives of joining “terrorist groups” and disseminating “false news” in 13 cases.

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“Egyptian authorities, determined to stifle dissent, have been punishing families of opponents abroad,” HRW deputy Middle East and North Africa director, Joe Stork, said, adding that the government had to “cease these vindictive attacks, which amount to collective punishment.”

Since incumbent Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi took power in 2014, the government has launched a crackdown on pro-democracy activists and anyone suspected of opposing his leadership. Local and international human rights groups accuse the Egyptian authorities of carrying out forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and unlawful detentions of thousands of dissidents. Egypt has consistently denied the accusations.

Amnesty International has described the situation in Egypt as the worst human rights crisis in the country in decades, with the state systematically using arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances to silence any dissent and create an atmosphere of fear.

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