Prominent Egyptian dissident Alaa Abdel Fattah 'disappeared' after visiting police station, family says

Prominent Egyptian dissident Alaa Abdel Fattah 'disappeared' after visiting police station, family says
The family of a prominent Egyptian dissident says they do not know where he has been taken.
4 min read
29 September, 2019
Alaa Abdel Fattah is a pro-democracy activist [Getty]
Prominent Egyptian dissident Alaa Abdel Fattah was detained on Sunday morning beyond his overnight probation, his family and a judicial official said.

"We don't know where Alaa is... The police station says he's most probably at state security prosecution... we seriously don't have any information about him," his sister Mona Seif, also a well-known activist, said on Twitter early on Sunday.

Abdel Fattah, 37, is serving five years of probation after completing a five-year jail sentence in March for staging a protest against a 2013 law effectively banning public gatherings.

His probation requires him to report to a police station near his home in Cairo at 6:00 PM every evening, and stay overnight in a cell until 6:00 AM.

On Sunday morning however he was not released.

Officers denied his mother Laila Soueif access to the police station and refused to say why he was not released.

The activist and computer programmer's whereabouts remain unknown and no word has been given on when he might appear before prosecutors, the judicial official told AFP.

Abdel Fattah told AFP in June that security personnel had ordered him twice to stop talking about his probation publicly or face being sent back to jail indefinitely.

A prolific tweeter, he has commented on small-scale protests in Egypt in the last two weeks.

The demonstrations followed an online call to dissent by an exiled Egyptian businessman.

Some 2,000 people have been arrested in the past week in what may be the largest expansion of an ongoing crackdown in Egypt since 2013, rights groups say.

Authorities have detained other prominent critics including well-known academics, politicians and lawyers.

Abdel Fattah has advocated on behalf of other detainees, calling for a more humane and flexible system of probation.

On Friday, thousands of Egyptians took to the streets to protest against the regime of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Giza, Alexandria, Qena, Luxor, Minya, Sohag and parts of Cairo.

Dubbed "Friday of Salvation" by online activists, the protests mark the second week in a row Egyptians have made a rare public demonstration against the government currently marred by corruption allegations.

Protesters took to the streets despite a vast security campaign deployed last week, which has so far arrested over 2,070 people suspected of taking part in the demonstrations.

Footage circulating on social media showed crowds of people marching in Luxor chanting "Leave, Sisi”.

As predicted, the demonstrations have been met with push-back from the regime, with reports security forces have used tear gas to disperse the crowds.

The regime forces have also blocked off the metro stations and roads leading to Tahrir Square, the centre of the 2011 uprisings.

Egyptian businessman-turned-viral video sensation Mohamed Ali has led calls for protests from his self-imposed exile in Spain. He alleges Sisi's military regime squandered billions on extravagant palaces and residences while the country falls into economic turmoil.

In his latest video, he urged Egyptians to stage demonstrations after Friday protests.

'Paid protesters'

Meanwhile, the Egyptian authorities are ramping up measures to quash the anti-government protest movement ahead of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's return to Cairo on Friday after visiting New York for the UN General Assembly.

Read more: UN warns Egypt's military 'to change approach to protests' as massacre fears loom

Authorities are reportedly launching a counter-protest campaign that will pay, feed and transport people from their workplaces in order to fill out a pro-Sisi "ceremony" to counter any outbreak of anti-regime protests on Friday.

The counter-protest campaign, which allegedly aims to gather 100,000 people, comes as viral video sensation Mohamed Ali called for fresh protests against the president after Friday prayers this week.

Ali, a former military contractor now living in self-imposed exile in Spain, became "more popular than Netflix" in Egypt this month after releasing a series of videos alleging the Sisi regime squandered billions on lavish palaces and army residences, while a third of the Egyptian population live in poverty.

The allegations prompted thousands of Egyptians take to the streets in Cairo, Suez, Damietta and other cities on Friday and Saturday last week, in a rare show of public protest.

Hundreds of buses will transport people to the pro-Sisi rally in the Nasr City suburb of Cairo after prayers on Friday.

The regime is arranging various entertainment to attract crowds to the pro-Sisi rally, with reports it has invited well-known Emirati singer Hussain Al Jassmi to perform.

Sisi has instructed the regime's media wing to dispatch army helicopters to photograph the crowds and broadcast live footage of the rally, sources told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service under condition of anonymity.

To ensure large crowds, the regime will allegedly pay money and provide meals to those bussed to the rally. Buses are also being charted from factories in order to transport large numbers of workers to fill out the gathering.

State companies such as the national oil company, telecoms companies, government offices and state-affiliated businesses have also been instructed to send their employees to the rally.

The employees will reportedly sign an attendance sheet at the rally and in return receive two days' worth of wages or two additional days of leave.

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