Egyptian security services 'conducting illegal random phone searches' in protest crackdown

Egyptian security services 'conducting illegal random phone searches' in protest crackdown
Almost 1,500 people have been arrested so far as Sisi moves to crackdown on protests against his rule.
2 min read
25 September, 2019
Almost 1,500 people have been arrested so far [Anadolu]
The Egyptian authorities have been accused of conducting random searches on the mobile phones of passers-by for "anti-Sisi" views in contravention of the law.

The widespread allegations of privacy breaches come as President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's government attempts to quell growing calls for protest.

Activists say that police are randomly accosting pedestrians  without a stated reason and searching the photos, videos and social media accounts on their phones. 

One Egyptian activist wrote on Facebook that the heightened security presence in central Cairo meant that there are now police officers at every corner.

"Any person, whether they are Egyptian or a foreigner, whatever they look like, whether they're wearing fancy or shabby clothes" can be stopped and searched, Ahmed Faris wrote. 

"There are police literally every three meters," he said. "If you must go into central Cairo, you should take an Uber, and take the long road. In fact, it's better if you don't go there at all!"

Photographer Samih Abu al-Hassan described the situation in the center of the capital as "terrifying".

The Egyptian constitution states that the right to privacy is irrefutable and that telephone conversations and electronic communications cannot be confiscated, accessed without permission or censored by the authorities.

The General Directorate of Cairo Traffic on Wednesday announced the temporary closure of the capital's central October 6 Bridge over the River Nile close to former protest hotspot Tahrir Square.

Analysts have been quick to point out that the central thoroughfare will only be closed for works between 1 AM on Fridays and 12 AM on Saturdays for the next three weeks - that is, the key times when further protests are expected in the capital.

Protests sweep Egypt

Unprecedented demonstrations calling for the ousting of Sisi erupted last week in Cairo, Suez and other Egyptian cities.

The protests were sparked by corruption allegations lodged against Sisi, his wife and the military by a former government contracter, now self-exiled in Spain.

Mohamed Ali has accused Sisi and his military of appropriating millions of dollars in public funds to build a colossal presidential palace and a number of luxurious villas.

At least 1,438 people have been detained since Friday in what has been dubbed the "Palacegate" revolution, according to the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights.

Egypt's prosecution has so far sentenced more than 300 people to 15 days in prison over their participation in the protests.

Among the sentenced was award-winning human rights lawyer Mahinour El-Massry, who was arrested on Sunday after attending an investigation of several of those arrested during the demonstrations.

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