Egypt arrests office manager of leading rights group
Egypt arrested the office manager of a leading human rights group on Sunday on charges including "joining a terror group" and "spreading false news", the organisation said.
"In an unprecedented escalation for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), a security force arrested Mohammed Basheer, the administrative manager of EIPR, from his home," the organisation said in a statement, adding that he was held for over 12 hours in a State Security facility.
Basheer was charged with "joining a terror group", "spreading false news" on social media and "funding terrorism" - charges regularly lodged against dissidents.
EIPR said Basheer was questioned by the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP) about the organisation's work and a specific visit earlier this month to its Cairo office "by a number of ambassadors and diplomats" to discuss human rights.
He was placed in pre-trial detention for 15 days and will be questioned at a later date, EIPR added, calling on authorities to immediately release him. Pre-trial detention can last up to two years under Egyptian law, but the period is often extended.
Basheer is among other prominent human rights lawyers, activists and journalists charged in a single case known locally as Case 855/2020.
"The detention of Mohammed Basheer is just the latest episode in the ongoing crackdown that aims to intimidate and scare legal and human rights professionals as well as... activists," the EIPR statement added.
Last week, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said at a press conference alongside his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian that "there is no arbitrary detention, there is only detention according to the law" in Egypt.
No comment was forthcoming from the interior ministry on Basheer's arrest.
Rights groups estimate that some 60,000 detainees in Egypt are political prisoners. These include secular activists, journalists, lawyers, academics and Islamists arrested in a sweeping crackdown on dissent since the military's 2013 ouster of late Islamist president Mohammed Morsi. (AFP)