Free Amr Gharbeia Says Amnesty!

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AMNESTY International has urged the Egyptian authorities to ensure that an activist thought to have been arrested on 23 July is immediately freed and that he is not subjected to torture or other ill-treatment.

Blogger and human rights activist Amr Gharbeia, a former Amnesty International staff member currently working with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, was stopped by a group of men after a protest march in Cairo was attacked.

The men reportedly said they would hand him to the military police.

His current whereabouts are not known.

‘The Egyptian authorities must urgently clarify the whereabouts of Amr Gharbeia and arrange for his immediate release if he is being held for participating in protests against military rule in Egypt,’ said Amnesty International.

‘The authorities have to make sure that he and all protesters in custody are not subjected to torture or ill treatment – something we have documented on numerous occasions since February, including by the military.’

Media reports said that at least 143 people were injured in Cairo’s Abbasseya district when demonstrators marching to the Ministry of Defence to press for faster reforms were blocked by security forces. Protesters and local residents clashed and rocks were thrown from both sides.

Alya El Hosseny, a protester who was with Amr Gharbeia, told Amnesty International that the group of men beat him then tore his long hair, suspecting him to be a member of the ‘April 6th Youth Movement’, one of Egypt’s pro-democracy protest movements.

In a statement on 22 July, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) accused the ‘April 6th’ movement of ‘seeking to cause strife’ between the army and the Egyptian people.

Alya el-Hosseiny detailed the circumstances of leading human rights researcher Amr Gharbeia’s arrest, as she was with him as he was attacked by citizens near Abbassiya square during Saturday’s violence.

It reveals the influence of the military statements of the past two days, saying the April 6th youth movement has a ‘suspicious plan.’ According to the account, people are believing the reports.

She wrote on Facebook her account of what happened.

Hosseiny wrote that at around 9:30 pm and in Ahmed Lotfy al-Said street, her group, including Gharbeia, passed Ain Shams Medical School and close to al-Demerdash metro station when a group of young men, ‘loud-voiced,’ approached the group.

She then turned around to see them grabbing Gharbeia from his pony-tail, hitting him and wanting to search him.

‘I tried to defend him and say he is my brother, as we look alike, and then they wanted to search me too,’ she said, adding that they had Gharbeia by the neck and shouting ‘he is part of 6 of April movement and a spy.’

They asked Gharbeia about his ID and he told them they had taken it already when they took his bag for searching.

Hosseiny said that when she received his bag, it was empty and the men had taken what was inside, including his ID.

She continued that the attackers wanted to turn Gharbeia over to the military police so they could decide if he should be arrested or not.

Gharbeia then told them that he would turn himself in and they walked down the street looking for a police checkpoint.

She noted that one of the attackers took out a video camera and took images of Gharbeia while shouting in the camera: ‘a spy . . . a spy.’

The attackers then began stopping passers-by and asking them where the police point was and many gave them directions.

One man even offered to give them a ride in his car. The attackers told people who were coming up to them out of curiosity that they found ‘white powder’ with him, referreing to cocaine or heroin, which Hosseiny denied strongly to those people.

She wrote that she kept screaming at them ‘let go of my brother’ and the attackers then threatened to turn her over to the military police as well.

She concluded by saying that she and the group she was with found it difficult to follow where they took Gharbeia as they took off in a car.

Gharbeia’s whereabouts remain unknown as of early Sunday morning.

A number of reports have reported that other protesters in the area were also attacked and arrested along with Gharbeia, along with those taken to Aim Shams Hospital. Their whereabouts also remain unclear.

A group of political parties, coalitions and movements in Egypt on Sunday called on authorities to investigate assaults on Saturday’s peaceful march.

The march started from Tahrir Square and proceeded to the Ministry of Defence.

In Sunday’s joint statement, they said that the Abbasseya clashes brought February 2nd back to the mind when thugs, on camels and horses, attacked protesters in Tahrir Square.

The thugs had been incited by National Democratic Party figures.

The statement added that the ‘vicious’ incidents were watched by all security personnel including military police and central security forces, which raises suspicion of their involvement in the attacks.

The Ministry of Health has estimated the total number of the injured at 296, 196 of which were treated on the spot while the rest were transferred to hospitals.

All of them were released from hospitals following treatment.

The statement called on the ruling Supreme Council for the Armed Forces (SCAF) and the cabinet to bear responsibility for what happened.

It also demanded immediately forming a committee to investigate the assaults, including the role of state media, which is accused of inciting against peaceful protesters.

The Social Democratic Egyptian Party, Popular Alliance Party, Free Awareness Party, Egyptian Trend Party, The Free Egyptian Movement, Democratic Front Party, Tagammu Party, Karama Party, Union of Revolutionary Youth and other groups signed the statement.

• Dozens of aviation workers continued their protest at Cairo International Airport on Thursday to demand the sacking of the head of the Egyptian Holding Company for Airports and Air Navigation, Mohie Ragheb.

The workers also demanded a salary increase like the one given to the company’s air traffic controllers, which went up from LE500 to LE1000; no other airport workers received similar pay increases.

The protesters accused Ragheb of showing preference to the air traffic control sector, at which he worked prior to being appointed head of the company.

The demonstrators threatened escalate matters further with a strike, which could result in the partial closure of airspace. Protesters had previously blocked Ragheb’s office, preventing him from leaving, before turning to calling for his resignation.

Sources said that negotiations are currently taking place between the company and the protesters, and that a committee including two employees from each aviation sector will meet with the newly appointed aviation minister in order to come to an agreement that could end the strike.