Mandate to counter terrorism broadened

Menan Khater
6 Min Read
16,000 people have been arrested in crackdown on the Brotherhood. Photo shows conscripts standing guard (Photo by Adham Youssef)
16,000 people have been arrested in crackdown on the Brotherhood. Photo shows conscripts standing guard (Photo by Adham Youssef)
16,000 people have been arrested in crackdown on the Brotherhood. Photo shows conscripts standing guard
(Photo by Adham Youssef)

Amid the sweeping crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters, more than 16,000 Egyptians were arrested according to Amnesty International. Many of those detained were simply arrested on mere suspicion from the policemen of belonging to the Brotherhood.

Just a few days before President Abdel-Fattah Al Sisi’s inauguration, the interior minister started a campaign to monitor internet posts threatening national security through incitement, according an interior ministry official. He said on TV the campaign will not monitor any private social media pages, and will sustain freedom of expression.

Four months later, over 300 Facebook pages managers were arrested by the internet investigations department of the interior ministry on charges of inciting against the police and military.

The department uses three main channels through which they can track and arrest suspected users, according to another interior ministry official. The first is through citizens’ reports, the second is through tracking videos which contain insults or calls for protests, and the third is through tracking the popular activists.

MA, a Cairo University student told Daily News Egypt on condition of anonymity that he was arrested in front of the campus metro station suspected of being a Muslim Brotherhood member, and was released eight months later. The confiscated materials which the policemen held against him were two pins, one for Islamic cleric Emad Effat who was killed during the cabinet sit-in dispersal in 2011, and another for Asmaa Al-Beltagy, who was killed during Rabaa’a sit-in dispersal in 2013.

Moreover, the places of detention for those cases are sometimes made anonymous, even to their families. Among those cases was engineer Amr Othman, who has been missing since August 2014. No reasons for his arrest were given when security forces personnel arrived at his house in Bakkous, Alexandria.

“We have no clue why he got arrested,” Othman’s lawyer Mohamed Hafez said. “Lately, there have been a staggering number of random enforced disappearances without any information about the charges filed again the person or his place.”

The official statement released by The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) claimed that Othman is not involved in any form of political activism. The statement added that there is no proof that he took part in any violent acts.

Meanwhile, other detainees have been held in custody without a trial. Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zied “Shawkan” has been imprisoned for over a year without trial. Shawkan was arrested while covering the dispersal of Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in in August, and was charged with 12 crimes including attempted murder. His arrests provoked a broad array of responses from local and international journalists.

An increased existence of Central Security Forces personnel has also been witnessed around the governmental properties including public educational facilities like Cairo University. Universities presidents partnered with interior ministry and private security company “Falcon” ahead of the current academic year for the purpose of securing the campus from bombs and attacks.

Talking to Cairo University students, Daily News Egypt found that large numbers believed new security measures were necessary to safeguard the educational process. Many, however, criticised the ways in which such measures are being enforced.

Samah A, a third-year student in the Faculty of Science who wears a niqab, said security personnel are intolerant of her attire. She added they always suspect her of belonging to an Islamist group, and that she regularly has to explain that her outfit has nothing to do with politics.

At Al-Azhar University in January, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) reported that a student was arrested for allegedly carrying a Palestinian scarf. The prosecution charged him with “joining a banned group and participating with others in illegal protests”.

On the regional level, with an escalating violence in countries like Syria, Iraq and Palestine, Egyptian authorities banned refugees from those countries from entering Egypt unless they have a security approval in addition to a visa.  Similarly if any Egyptian wants to travel to one of those countries in addition to Turkey, they need to obtain a security approval with their visas.

A group of Iraqi journalists were banned from entering Egypt in May 2014 because they did not have the security approval beforehand. The group was supposed to attend a media conference in Alexandria.

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Politics and investigative reporter for Daily News Egypt. Initiator and lead instructor of DNE's special reporting project for university students 'What Lies Beyond.' Facebook: