CAIRO: Lawyers and activists condemned the detention of 10 men who they say are prisoners of conscience during a seminar held Thursday at the Journalists’ Syndicate.
The seminar was followed by a protest on the steps of the Syndicate during which demonstrators called for the release of the detainees.
Twenty-two-year-old Mohamed Adel, a blogger and IT student was bundled into a car by roughly 30 plain-clothed men while in a Downtown Cairo coffee shop last month on Nov. 20, according to an eyewitness.
A formal arrest warrant was issued four days after Adel’s disappearance but his exact whereabouts remain unknown.
Lawyer Ahmed Seif El Islam condemned what he described as the “state thuggery perpetrated by police.
“Egypt’s young people are being detained without a legal basis, Seif El Islam told the seminar.
“Their lives are in danger because we have no idea where they are – even the public prosecution office doesn’t know where they are. This is state thuggery.
Seif El Islam warned that the draft Counter-Terrorism law currently before parliament “will give the police even more power than they already have.
The situation of Bahaa Fezaa was described by another speaker. Fezaa, a member of the Islamic-leaning Labor Party has been in administrative detention for five years despite the fact that he has received 11 release orders.
According to a statement given out during the seminar Fezaa was detained because he printed articles written by Labor Party chairman Magdy Hussein and discussed them with young people.
Gamal Eid, director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said that for the first time ANHRI called on the Interior Ministry to respect the provisions of emergency law.
This law – in force since a state of emergency was declared in 1981 – is criticized by rights groups who say that the powers of administrative detention afforded by it are abused to circumvent the protection offered by the ordinary judiciary and detain political opponents.
“We brought a case acknowledging that it is the interior ministry’s right to use the emergency law – for the first time in our history, Eid said.
“But if it uses that law, the Interior Ministry must respect its provisions and reveal Mohamed Adel’s whereabouts.
Eid reminded the seminar that decisions in two legal cases brought against bloggers are expected this month.
Tamer Mabrouk is the subject of a legal case brought by a company in Port Said following criticism he published on his blog, of the company’s role in causing pollution.
Alaa Abdel Fatah and Manal Hassan (publishers of the Manalaa.net blog) are – together with Eid – the subject of a case brought by Judge Abdel Fattah Murad who accuses them of defamation.
In December 2007 the administrative court rejected a case brought by Murad seeking the closure of 51 human rights websites (including manalaa.net and ANHRI’s website) which he accused of damaging Egypt’s reputation.
Blogger Wael Abbas and Adel’s father both paid tribute to Adel.
Abbas showed a video of Adel being arrested during the 2006 protests against attacks on the independence of the judiciary.
Adel – then only 17 years old – was detained with other protestors in Cairo’s Tora Prison which, Abbas explained, was a violation of laws governing the detention of minors.
Abbas said that Adel has been “kidnapped rather than detained.
Adel’s father told the seminar that his house has been searched twice by state security forces.
“They first came at 1.30 am on Oct. 30 and asked where Mohamed was.
He was in Cairo at the time, Adel’s father said.
“When they came back on Nov. 20 I got extremely agitated and shouted at them ‘why do you want to search my house again?’ I told them, ‘if you need evidence against Mohamed will books by [Islamic scholar] Zaghloul Naggar do?’
“I even said to them, ‘here, take some money and buy whatever it is you want to use as evidence against Mohamed – you can do whatever you want anyway.
Adel’s father spoke proudly of his son, who he said belongs “to a generation with nothing to lose, and no hope in anything.
Blogger and journalist Abdel Moneim Mahmoud said that members of the Muslim Brotherhood had received information that Adel is currently being held in state security headquarters in Nasr City, Cairo, together with Abdel Aziz Megahed.
“Megahed was summoned by state security to pick up the laptop seized in April when he was arrested during the local elections, Mahmoud said.
“He went to collect the laptop on Nov. 4 and has since disappeared.
“Megahed and Adel are being subjected to torture, now, as we speak. Detainees in the Nasr City headquarters are held in tiny cells, blindfolded 24 hours a day, beaten and tortured, he alleged.
Abdel Aziz recently graduated from Helwan University where he was active in the ‘Free Union’, a union organized by students prevented from involvement in the security body-controlled official university union.
Mahmoud suggests on his blog that Adel and Megahed have been detained because of photographs of them with Hamas leaders which they took in Gaza in January when the Rafah crossing was breached.