Amnesty urges Egypt to free Facebook militants
Amnesty urges Egypt to free Facebook militants
Sunday, July 27,2008 06:30

Amnesty International on Saturday urged the authorities in Egypt to free 16 Internet activists jailed for more than two weeks for "threatening national security."


"Amnesty International believes all 16 to be prisoners of conscience, detained for their participation" in a "peaceful protest in the city of Alexandria on 23 July," the London-based rights group said in a statement.


It said it was particularly concerned about two activists, Ahmed Afifi and Mohammed Taher, saying: "It is not known where they are held and Amnesty International fears they are at risk of torture or other ill-treatment."


It urged the authorities to "immediately and unconditionally release them and all other members of the "6 April Youth" Facebook group, since Amnesty International believes them to be prisoners of conscience detained merely for exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression."


The so-called 6 April group on social networking site Facebook has more than 72,000 members, and earlier this year it called for a day of protest at rising prices.


Wednesday"s arrests came after a group of about 30 young people gathered on a beach in Alexandria for a peaceful protest and were arrested. Public protests are illegal under the state of emergency in force in Egypt for 27 years.


On Thursday, they were ordered detained for 15 days pending further investigation, Amnesty said.


"Bloggers continue to face threats and harassment for their work as rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly continue to be restricted in Egypt," it said.


Esra Abdel Fattah, 27, set up the 6 April group in March calling for the protests against price hikes. She was detained at the time but freed after her mother made an appeal to Interior Minister Habib al-Adli.


She was among several bloggers arrested ahead of what was supposed to be a nationwide protest on April 6. Observation of the day of protest was sporadic.


Instead, protests focused on the Nile Delta city of Mahalla, where three people were killed by police after clashes erupted when demonstrators pulled down posters of President Hosni Mubarak.