International rights group Amnesty International said Thursday that an intensified crackdown on dissent in Egypt made the country “more dangerous” than ever for peaceful critics of the government.
The statement from the group comes ahead of the eighth anniversary of the January 25, 2011, uprising which led to the ouster of longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.
Amnesty said Egyptian authorities had arrested at least 113 people during 2018 for “peacefully expressing their views.”
“Today it is more dangerous to openly criticize the government in Egypt than at any other time in the country’s recent history,” said Najia Bounaim, the group’s North Africa Campaigns Director.
#Egypt: On occasion of 25 January, Egyptian authorities will grant inmates one exceptional visit. What about Hoda Abdelmoniem, whose family does not even know where she is being detained? https://t.co/WtnAWnHkC7#WhereisHoda#FreeHoda pic.twitter.com/VtjZcQ2Iyh
— Amnesty North Africa (@AINorthAfrica) January 24, 2019
Why This Matters
Amnesty said the space for dissent “is being crushed out of existence.”
“Under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi‘s administration, Egypt has been converted into an open-air prison for critics,” it said.
The Egyptian leader recently denied in an interview with CBS that the country holds any political prisoners.
Human rights groups have regularly criticized Sisi’s government for cracking down on secular and left-wing activists, as well as the Islamist supporters of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group.
A growing number of activists have been detained in Egypt in recent months.
The country has also passed legislation allowing authorities to monitor popular social media accounts and block them if they are found to publish “fake news.”
Rights groups say the legislation is aimed at curbing freedom of expression online, with the internet being one of the last forums for dissenting voices to speak against Sisi’s rule.
Authorities insist that such measures are needed to maintain stability and counter terrorism in the country.
As army chief, Sisi led the overthrow of Egypt’s first freely elected president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 after mass street protests against the Islamist leader’s rule.
Sisi was re-elected in March 2018, winning a second four-year term after securing more than 97 percent of the vote in the absence of any serious competition.
More on the Subject
Egypt holds about 25,000 and 30,000 prisoners in pre-trial detention, according to statements released early last year by the head of the Human Rights Committee in the Egyptian Parliament Alaa Abed.
“Pre-trial detention is implemented in Egypt as a result of lacking evidence or witnesses needed prove a suspect as guilty or innocent. However, when evidence and witnesses are lacking, the suspect should be released free of charge but authorities tend to extend periods of detention instead,” Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights lawyer Tarek Abdelal told The Globe Post.
Abdelal said the number of pre-trial detentions originally increased during the time when interim President Adly Mansour was in power.
“The state tends to use pre-trial detention often to ease political tension,” he explained. “There are many alternatives to pre-trial detention, including precautionary measures where the released suspect is put under police observation for a certain period, who later submit a result report to authorities. Such method is rarely used because, anyways, it is legally up to the prudence of an investigative authority or a renewal judge taking charge of a case.”