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Egypt arrests Mohamed Soltan's cousins in fresh bid to silence him

Former political prisoner Mohamed Soltan, 15 April 2016
Former political prisoner Mohamed Soltan, 15 April 2016 [Middle East Monitor]

Egyptian authorities have once again arrested relatives of former political prisoner Mohamed Soltan who lives in the United States as part of a campaign to stop him from speaking out about human rights abuses in the country.

Six of Soltan's relatives were arrested on Sunday morning in Mounofiya and Alexandria, according to a statement released by the Freedom Initiative.

Soltan's cousins Moustafa and Khairi Soltan were detained and a third cousin told to turn himself in when his broken leg was healed, reports the Washington Post.

Mohamed Soltan was shot, arrested, and imprisoned at the time of the Rabaa massacre in August 2013. Security forces detained him whilst looking for his father and then convicted him in a mass trial for "spreading false news" and "disturbing national security".

He was released in 2015 in exchange for giving up his Egyptian nationality after a 15-month hunger strike.

Since his return to the US Soltan has filed a lawsuit in Washington DC against former Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi for overseeing the torture he was subjected to whilst in an Egyptian prison.

READ: 58 countries denounce practice of arbitrary detention

Under a 1991 US law, the Torture Victim Protection Act, torture survivors can seek damages from their tormentors. Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and intelligence head Abbas Kamel are named in the lawsuit as "unsued defendants".

Soltan says he was targeted for particularly harsh abuse because he spoke out about the 2013 Rabba and Al-Nahda Square massacres, because he had US citizenship and because his father was a deputy minister under the Mohamed Morsi government.

In jail, he was burnt with cigarettes and beaten until his ribs were broken. The guards goaded him and encouraged him to commit suicide.

After the lawsuit was filed five of Soltan's cousins were forcibly disappeared and were told that arrests against them would continue if Soltan pursued the lawsuit.

They were released in November after 144 days in prison in what was thought to be a move linked to Joe Biden's then-predicted victory in the presidential victory.

His father Salah Soltan was also detained in 2013. After the lawsuit, he was interrogated in prison and then moved to an unknown location. His whereabouts remain unknown.

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