July 22, 2006
Reporters Without Borders stated that the last of the bloggers arrested in Egypt two months ago were released Thursday.
Mohamed al-Sharqawi and Karim El-Shaer were arrested during a demonstration outside the Cairo press union on May 25th. They were held in Tora prison, where they were often harassed by fellow inmates and tortured. The Arabist blog printed an English translation of a letter sent from al-Sharqawi while in Tora prison which documents his abuse. Human Rights Watch also issued a statement on Al-Sharqawi and fellow pro-democracy activists who were assaulted.
Six bloggers were arrested in May in a crackdown on pro-democracy activists who use the Internet to mobilize and communicate with other activists. Al-Sharqawi blogs at SpeaksFreely.
July 11, 2006
Human Rights Watch issued a statement today reporting that Egypt’s Press Law, which mandates prison sentences for insulting public officials in the media, still has many restrictions on freedom of the press.
The human rights organization was content with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s removing an amendment that makes the reporting on the financial dealings of public figures punishable by . However, they deplored how provisions criminalizing insults to the president or a foreign head of state remain in the law books.
“Criticizing public officials should not be a criminal offense at all, much less one punishable by prison terms. President Mubarak needs to make good on the promise he made two years ago to come up with a law that protects journalists from prison, even when they criticize public officials,” said Joe Stork, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa division at HRW.
June 1, 2006
Since I’ve been on the subject of Egypt for the past couple of days, I’m posting this article that appeared on IRIN News on Wednesday. It’s a feature on organ trafficking in Egypt. I’ve haven’t heard of this in other places in North Africa. I found a couple of blog posts on this phenomena and how it targets the poor.
CAIRO, 30 May 2006 (IRIN)– In today’s Egypt, a human kidney can be bought illegally for less than US $5,000. A desperate donor sold his to Fawziya (not her real name) for as much. But even paying that sum of money did not cure the patient.
In Egypt, prior to any transplant, the Doctors’ Syndicate must conduct an investigation and only when a specialised committee has given approval can a transplant take place.
Fawziya from Upper Egypt suffers from kidney failure in both kidneys. With no relatives with matching tissue, Fawziya found herself with two options: to continue undergoing dialysis at run-down government health centres, or seek an unrelated donor willing to give up a kidney in exchange for money. She opted for the latter.
In Fawziya’s case the laboratory managed to bribe a member of the committee to approve the operation. “The laboratory had a contact in the syndicate, and we got the approval that way,” Mohamed said. “The doctors treating my mother were all paid, but my mother’s still sick.”
“Now she’s very, very sick,” said Mohamed, her son. “The transplant failed. Within hours of the operation, doctors discovered that her body had rejected the kidney. She is back on dialysis, and has no intention of undergoing surgery again.”
According to Mohamed, Fawziya had received a kidney from a donor from Cairo. The transplant was arranged by a privately-run clinic that officially operates as a laboratory. “We paid a total of US $15,600 for the entire procedure,” he said. “The kidney alone cost US $4,335.” Much of the family’s life savings, therefore, went to waste as a result of the failed operation. Read the rest of this entry »
May 31, 2006
Human Rights Watch released the following statement today. Political activists Karim al-Sha`ir and Mohamed al-Sharqawi were arrested last Thursday as they were leaving a peaceful demonstration in downtown Cairo. Agents of the State Security Investigations (SSI) bureau of the Interior Ministry arrested both men. The men claim they were beaten in custody.
Eyewitnesses told Human Rights Watch that security agents beat al-Sha`ir in the street.
According to his lawyer, al-Sha`ir said that the beatings continued once he was in police custody. In his statement, al-Sharqawi wrote that his captors at the Qasr al-Nil police station beat him for hours and then raped him with a cardboard tube. Then they sent him to the State Security prosecutor’s office in Heliopolis.
The State Security prosecutor ordered both men to be held for 15 days pending investigations. The authorities had released al-Sharqawi and al-Sha`ir from Tora prison on May 22 after detaining them in earlier protests on April 24 and May 7 respectively. The demonstration on May 25 commemorated the one-year anniversary of widespread violence by police and ruling party thugs against journalists and demonstrators urging a boycott of a constitutional referendum.
Al-Sharqawi wrote in his statement that around 20 State Security officers surrounded him as he attempted to leave last week’s protest by car and began beating him furiously:
“Their punches and kicks came one after the other… There were moments of so much pain, so many insults, so many blows… targeting all my body.” Al-Sharqawi wrote that he was stuffed into a police van, after which “they ordered me to put my head between my knees. Of course I obeyed. As soon as I did, they started hitting me on my back with all their strength.”
May 30, 2006
Protestors in Cairo on May 18, 2006. Courtesy: Reuters
May 12, 2006
The mainstream media is starting to pick up on what happened to Egypt’s prominent blogger and activist Alaa Abd El-Fatah earlier this week. Today’s Boston Globe ran a story on the clashes between demonstrators and security officials in Egypt after the government arrested 11 political reform activists.
The (UK) Guardian also reported today that El-Fatah has started blogging again from his prison cell by smuggling out notes on paper. If you check out his blog, he says some of his fellow protestors in jail are on a hunger strike. With the attention his case has received, I hope the activists will be released soon. So far, there is no indication that the men have been tortured.
Human Rights Watch first reported the detention on Tuesday when El-Fatah was first detained:
“These new arrests indicate that President Mubarak intends to silence all peaceful opposition,” said Joe Stork, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division. “The activists detained over the past two weeks should be released immediately, unharmed. The Egyptian government is responsible under international law for their safety.”
HRW said that more than 100 people have been detained the past two weeks for exercising freedom of expression. Most of the activists have been campaigning for greater judicial independence. This comes after an organization of judges refused to certify the results of last year’s parliamentary elections after more than 100 of the judges reported irregularities at polling stations.
El-Fatah was charged with illegal assembly, blocking traffic, insulting President Mubarak, and verbal abuse of police officers at the time of his arrest. He is co-author of the blog Manal and Alaa’s Bit Bucket and is one of the most active people working to support the blogosphere in Egypt. His site is an aggregator collecting almost all Egyptian bloggers. It won a prize last year in a blog competition organized by Reporters Without Borders .