Renowned Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas arrested in new media crackdown

Renowned Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas arrested in new media crackdown
Wael Abbas, an internationally renowned online activist known for his criticism of the Egyptian regime, has been detained in the latest crackdown of dissenting voices.
3 min read
23 May, 2018
Wael Abbas was a key figure in documenting the 2011 uprisings [Twitter]

Egyptian security officials say a prominent activist and blogger known for his anti-government stance has been detained, the latest in a new wave of arrests since elections earlier this year.

Officials told AP that Wael Abbas - whose activism has won him awards from Human Rights Watch, CNN and BBC - was taken from his home in a Cairo suburb on Wednesday accused of disseminating "false news" and joining an outlawed group.

They spoke to the agendy on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to media.

Abbas is an internationally-renowned activist who writes on a number of issues in Egypt, including the state use of torture and corruption.

He was also a key figure in documenting the 2011 uprising against former dictator Hosni Mubarak.

Fellow Egyptian activist and writer Mona Eltahawy said on Twitter that friends of Abbas said security forces had broken into his home, arrested him and blindfolded him. 

She then posted a Facebook update from Abbas from 4am that morning which read: "I am being arrested."

None of Abbas' friends of relatives know his whereabouts, which sparked the hashtag  #وائل_عباس_فين - "Where is Abbas?" - to circulate on Twitter.

Fellow human rights activists took to Twiter to voice their shock and anger at Abbas' violent arrest and detention, and called for world leaders to act to secure his release.

Since December 2017, Abbas' Twitter account - where he documented much of the 2011 uprising - has been suspended due to unspecified reasons, prompting online uproar.

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said Wael's arrest was another example of the regime's suppression of free speech in the country.

"The Egyptian authorities continue their police campaign to silence all critical voices, fabricating claims against them in order to get revenge against them and silence their mouths. The latest episode in this evil campaign was the kidnapping of prominent blogger and journalist Wael Abbas," the ANHRI said.

"As usual, the police violated both the law and the consitution, by using blindfolding him, arresting him without a warrant from the prosecution, and denying him access to a lawyer."

Egypt has arrested a number of secular activists since President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi won re-election in March - before he had effectively eliminated all credible challengers.

The latest arrests come amid a wider crackdown on dissent in which thousands of people have been jailed.

Unauthorised protests have been banned and hundreds of websites have been blocked.

Prominent activist and labour rights lawyer Haithem Mohamedeen was arrested by Egyptian authorities on Friday, according to state officials.

A week earlier, activists Shady el-Ghazaly Harb and Amal Fathy were detained.

Harb was charged with insulting President Sisi and spreading "fake news", while Fathy was detained after she posted a video criticising the government's failure to address sexual harassment in the country.

Amnesty International have condemned the recent events and called Fathy's arrest a "new low in Egypt's crackdown on freedom of expression".