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Egypt: Persecution watchdog concerned over crackdown on human rights

by Will Maule

Human rights organisation Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has expressed concern over an uptick in the state-led persecution of human rights advocates. Several leading figures involved in the protection of human rights - including freedom of religion - have been detained over recent weeks. 

According to CSW, on 19th November, Egyptian police raided the home of Mr Jasser Abdelrzaek, the CEO of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR). Abdelrzaek was arrested and charged with “using the internet to spread false accusations".

The arrest was the latest in series of worrying detentions - on 15th November, armed police stormed the home of Mr Abdelrzaek’s colleague Mohammad Bashir, the EIPR’s director. Abdelrzaek was charged with “joining a terrorist organisation and threatening national security.” The EIPR campaigns on a number of human rights issues, including freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) and gender equality.

In a related arrest, on 18th November police detained Karim Anara, the director of the Criminal Justice Unit. He has been charged with “spreading false accusations against the state" and is being held with both Mr Abdelrzaek and Mr Bashir.

CSW noted that the arrests are "a worrying indication that the country’s ongoing crackdown on human rights is intensifying".

The organisation's CEO Scot Bower said: “This recent rise in arrests related to human rights activities is extremely concerning. Mr Abdelrzaek and his colleagues have done nothing more than to advocate for the rights of their fellow citizens. We urge the Egyptian authorities to end the harassment of all human rights defenders, and encourage the government instead to partner together with human rights groups in creating a just, equal and inclusive society. 

"We further urge the Government to reform discriminatory laws which restrict the rights to freedom of religion or belief and expression, such as Article 98(f) of the criminal code, which is often misused in blasphemy cases, another area in which we are recording a worrying rise in arrests.”

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