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Egyptians in four American states stage protests in support of detained activists
Published in Daily News Egypt on 11 - 05 - 2006

CAIRO: In four American states, some 50 U.S. residents of Egyptian origin and American activists protested in support of political and human rights activists recently detained by security forces and held in Tora Mazraa Prison.
"We want to show our support to the activists in Egypt and show that there is mounting international pressure on [President Hosni] Mubarak s regime, says Shehab Ismail, one protestor who is also in charge of circulating statements and petitions for the activists' cause.
The protests came after police detained around 90 political activists during the past two weeks for demonstrating in support of two judges who received disciplinary hearings for outlining what they called "fraud and "thuggery during last year's presidential elections. Among the detained were Kefaya (Enough) activists, El-Ghad Party members and two journalists. The detained were transferred to Tora Mazraa Prison, near Cairo.
Forty of the pre-trial detainees in Tora Mazraa went on a hunger strike to protest their prison conditions, where, against human rights laws, they were kept in the same cell with convicted criminals and were denied access to the prison mosque. Most of the detainees face charges such as creating public disorder, insulting the Egyptian president in a public gathering, distributing leaflets and disrupting traffic.
In New York, a dozen Egyptian and American activists picketed the Egyptian consulate. The National Council of Arab Americans and the International Socialist Review, published by the International Socialist Organization, initiated the protests.
The protestors, who were reportedly "loud and chanting, held signs and banners reading, "This is Mubarak's democracy. nothing but hypocrisy and "What do we want: freedom. when do we want it: now. Some chanted, "Free speech is not a crime. Why are reformers doing time?
The biggest protest was in Chicago, attracting some 25 activists, who marched in downtown Chicago. "We got lots of notice and we handed out [our] statement to passers-by, says Sherry Wolf, editor of the International Socialist Review and protest organizer. "Egyptian students held out colorful signs. We all carried signs with slogans like: Free the Egyptian reformers now. that had pictures of Egyptian state repression, with Arabic and English slogans.
According to Wolf, they received the statement that the 40 detainees on hunger strike had sent out from prison by e-mail. Each picketer took his turn during the marches to read out the mail from the Tora Mazraa Prison.
The protestors then outlined their demands in a statement sent to both the Egyptian prosecutor general, to different Egyptian consulates and to the Egyptian Ambassador to the United States. Their demands included releasing what they called pro-democracy activists, ending the state of emergency, granting the judicial system independence and endorsing press freedom.
"As Egyptians living in the United States, we have been following the alarming setbacks of democratic reforms in Egypt, reads the New York petition, signed by 30 Egyptian and American citizens. The petition also read that the activists detained "did nothing but exercise their right of publicly expressing their opinion in a peaceful manner.
"We condemn the actions of the Egyptian police in attacking the protests, reads the Chicago petition, signed by mostly American activists. "We call upon the Egyptian authorities to show respect for human rights and the independence of the Egyptian judiciary by releasing the detainees without delay.
According to Wolf, the petitions were delivered to three consulates. However, in "San Francisco, the consulate informed picketers that all arrestees have already been released without bail and there was nothing to protest about.
However, all the activists detained remain in custody.
"Everywhere else, we were treated coarsely by [Egyptian] officials, though never roughed up. There were no arrests, Wolf tells The Daily Star Egypt.
Meanwhile, according to Media Line, another group of Egyptian political activists have started a campaign to protest the detention of Alaa Seif Al-Islam, a prominent Egyptian blogger who was also arrested during the protest in support of judges.
Internet Bloggers has also started an e-mail campaign aimed at Egyptian embassies and the U.S. State Department to push for his release. According to the same source, they are also planning protests in the United States, France, Italy and Germany.
"His blog was short-listed by Reporters Without Borders last year, as one of eight nominees for the best blog award in the category of freedom of expression, reads the Media Line report.
The bloggers established a Web site to promote Seif Al-Islam's cause, saying that his arrest is not a coincidence and claiming, "Government agents handpicked people to arrest from amongst the protesters, as quoted in the Media Line report. "They have wanted to get [Seif Al-Islam] for a long time now, precisely because he is high profile, and because he helps organize the protests and spreads the information through the blog aggregator he runs.
In addition to the activists' arrest, more than 50 Muslim Brotherhood members were arrested following the renewal of the 25-year-old Emergency Law. Some Brotherhood members were arrested as they hung up wall posters condemning the Emergency Law and criticizing the government.
In response, New York-based Human Rights Watch has strongly criticized the mass arrests in their latest report on Egypt.


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