(Beirut) – HRW - Egyptian security forces arrested at least 382 people in the days leading up to and during the dispersal of mostly peaceful protests on April 25, 2016. The protests followed a rare mass demonstration against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo on April 15.
Police arrested lawyers and numerous activists, and temporarily held at least 33 journalists, according to witnesses and media reports, who also said that police stopped people riding public transportation or walking in the street, made warrantless inspections of their mobile phones, and arrested them if they found anti-government images.
“Egypt’s effective zero-tolerance policy for protests leaves people with no outlet to peacefully express their grievances, and protesting can mean years in prison,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director. “The authorities should release all those held solely for peaceful expression, and parliament should amend the repressive law on public assembly.”
Police arrested at least 286 people on April 25, according to the Front for the Defense of Egyptian Protesters, an independent group of lawyers and activists. The large majority of the arrests, which spanned seven governorates, occurred in the greater Cairo area, the group said.
Authorities did not allow those arrested to have defense lawyers present during questioning by agents of the Interior Ministry’s National Security Agency in the Agouza and Dokki police stations, where many of those arrested in the capital were taken, said Freedom for the Brave, an activist group that documents cases alongside lawyers.
One lawyer who was at the Dokki Police Station told Human Rights Watch that police fired teargas at lawyers waiting outside the station at about 10 p.m. on April 25, after the station chief had yelled at them to leave.
Authorities transferred many of those arrested on April 25 to the Red Mountain Central Security Forces camp outside Cairo, the Front for the Defense of Egyptian Protesters said. One human rights lawyer said she believed 140 people were being held at the camp. Central Security Forces camps are not lawful places of detention, and witnesses have previously told Human Rights Watch that the authorities have used them for enforced disappearances and torture.
The protests, which police dispersed in some cases with teargas, occurred despite a series of pre-emptive arrests that began during the night of April 21, when police detained at least 96 people, many at their homes or downtown Cairo cafés, according to the Front.
Prosecutors in multiple governorates, including Cairo and Alexandria, opened at least 11 investigations into whether to bring charges against those arrested in the pre-April 25 sweep, the Heliopolis Center for Political Development and Human Rights said. The investigations remain open.
The allegations against those arrested included incitement to use force to overturn the government, incitement to attack police stations, membership in a terrorist group, promoting terrorist crimes and thoughts through the Internet, publishing false news through social media to disturb stability and security, and incitement to demonstrate without permission.
Huamn Rights Watch