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Egyptian authorities round up 373 protesters

Human rights monitors say Egyptian authorities have rounded up about 400 protesters who had participated in rare protests against President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi over government corruption.

Mohamed Lotfy, director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), said on Monday that 373 people had been arrested in Cairo over the past few days. 

Gamal Eid, director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, said the number of detentions had risen above 400. “Our lawyers can’t keep up.”

Mahienour El-Massry, a prominent rights lawyer, was arrested late on Sunday as she walked out of the state prosecutor’s office in the capital Cairo, where she was representing detainees.

“She was talking on the phone next to the national security prosecution, I passed by her… then I heard her shouting ‘I am being arrested’ so I turned and saw three plain-clothes police pushing her into a microbus and then they drove off,” said Nour Fahmy, a lawyer with the ECRF.

On Friday night and in defiance of a ban on protests, hundreds of people took to the streets in central Cairo and several other Egyptian cities to express their discontent with President Sisi, a former military general-turned politician, calling for his removal from power. The protests spread to the Red Sea city of Suez on Saturday.

Security forces moved in to disperse the scattered protests and have reinforced their presence in several cities. Some witnesses said plain-clothes security officials stopped people in central Cairo to check social media content on their phones.

Internet monitoring group Netblocks said there had been disruption starting on Sunday to social media platforms and news sites.

The recent demonstrations began with an online call by exiled Egyptian businessman Mohamed Ali, who has accused Sisi of corruption. Ali has called for mass protests on Friday.

Human Rights Watch has urged the Egyptian authorities to “protect the right to peaceful protest.” 

Sisi has long been facing international condemnation for a crackdown on civil society groups since he took power in 2014, a year after a military coup spearheaded by him toppled the country’s first ever democratically-elected President Mohamed Morsi.

Morsi passed away during a trial court session in Cairo in June.

Since Morsi’s overthrow, Egyptian authorities have been engaged in a persistent crackdown on dissent, killing hundreds and arresting thousands.

Sisi’s human rights record, however, has not stopped US President Donald Trump from expressing support for his government.

Trump referred to the Egyptian president as his “favorite dictator” while awaiting a meeting with him at a gathering during the Group of Seven (G7) summit in France last month, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

Citing several witnesses, the Journal said Trump’s comment was met with a shocked silence. The report did not clarify whether the Egyptian president himself heard the remarks.

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