Thursday, March 19, 2020

Egypt arrests activists demanding prisoners to be freed amid virus

Egypt has arrested and charged four prominent activists and authors who called for the government to release prisoners amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The four women were arrested on Wednesday on the charge of spreading false news and violating the country's protest ban after they gathered outside the cabinet building.

The detentions of activist Mona Seif; her activist and professor mother Laila Soueif; novelist aunt Ahdaf Soueif and Rabab al-Mahdi, a professor and activist, came as Egypt tries to maintain its firm grip on dissent amid a burgeoning world health crisis.

"We are in front of the cabinet building, asking for the state to take serious steps regarding coronavirus in prisons. As we know, at the best of times Egypt's prisons are clusters for disease," Mona Seif said in a live Facebook video before her phone was taken by police.

Prominent human rights lawyer Khaled Ali said the activists were referred to prosecutors for questioning.

Mona's younger sister Sanaa Seif said she was prevented from seeing her relatives at a Cairo police station.

According to human rights groups, there are tens of thousands of people held without due process in the country for their political views.