Egypt 'more dangerous' than ever for government critics says Amnesty


International rights group Amnesty International said on Thursday that an intensified crackdown on dissent in Egypt made the country "more dangerous" than ever for peaceful critics of the government.

The statement from the group comes ahead of the eighth anniversary of the January 25, 2011 uprising which led to the ouster of long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak.

Amnesty said Egyptian authorities had arrested at least 113 people during 2018 for "peacefully expressing their views".

"Today it is more dangerous to openly criticise the government in Egypt than at any other time in the country's recent history," said Najia Bounaim, the group's North Africa Campaigns Director.

Amnesty said the space for dissent "is being crushed out of existence".

"Under President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi's administration, Egypt has been converted into an open-air prison for critics," it said.

The Egyptian leader recently denied in an interview with CBS that the country holds any political prisoners.

Human rights groups have regularly criticised Sisi's government for cracking down on secular and left-wing activists, as well as the Islamist supporters of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group.

A growing number of activists have been detained in Egypt in recent months. The country has also passed legislation allowing authorities to monitor popular social media accounts and block them if they are found to publish "fake news".

Rights groups say the legislation is aimed at curbing freedom of expression online, with the Internet being one of the last forums for dissenting voices to speak against Sisi's rule.

Authorities insist that such measures are needed to maintain stability and counter terrorism in the country.

As army chief, Sisi led the overthrow of Egypt's first freely elected president Mohammed Morsi in 2013 after mass street protests against the Islamist leader's rule.

Sisi was re-elected in March 2018, winning a second four-year term after securing more than 97 percent of the vote in the absence of any serious competition.    (AFP)

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