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Rights group condemns continued detention of political activists
Published in Daily News Egypt on 09 - 06 - 2010

CAIRO: At a press conference organized by the Hisham Mubarak Law Center (HMLC) Wednesday, the wife of Bedouin writer and political activist Mossad Abu Fagr condemned the continued detention of her husband who has been in custody without charge since 2007.
Along with member of the April 6 Youth Movement Tarek Khedr, Abu Fagr is still in state detention despite recent amendments to the emergency law that restrict its use to cases involving terrorism and drug-related offences.
“It seems like he is worse than murderers, thieves and drug dealers,” Abu Fagr's wife told journalists, pointing to the fact that her husband is held in Abu Za'bal prison, which is a criminal prison.
“They didn't even charge him with anything. If there is a case against him and he's serving a certain sentence, we would be proud,” she continued.
Abu Fagr was arrested in 2007 on charges of “inciting riots” and “damaging public property.” Rights groups allege that his arrest was triggered by the fact that he was an advocate of the rights of Sinai Bedouins through his campaign Wedna Naeesh (We Want to Live).
At the press conference, activists attributed his arrest to the government's fear of an uprising in Sinai, a region considered “sensitive” because of its borders with Israel.
Several court verdicts ordering his release were issued, but arrest orders under the emergency law facilitated his continued detention.
According to his wife, Abu Fagr is denied the right to read newspapers and publish his writings from prison which is usually permitted for detained political activists.
Last month, his lawyer Amir Salem pledged to take his case to international rights bodies.
Meanwhile, Mohamed Adel of the April 6 Youth Movement threatened to stage a sit-in in front of the general prosecutor's office to demand the release of Khedr and all political activists that are held without charge.
“We will demonstrate in areas they never thought we would hold demonstrations in,” said Adel, adding that detaining activists is a sign that the emergency laws will continue to be exercised as a means of silencing political dissent.
Khedr was arrested on March 25, 2010 in front of Alexandria University after he refused calls for questioning by state security in Alexandria.
On April 17, Khedr's case was brought to the People's Assembly (PA) by MP Hamdy Hassan.
In a joint meeting between the human rights and the national security committees of the PA, General Hamed Rashed said that Khedr was arrested because of his political activities and that he was being held at Wadi Al Natroun Prison.
However, according to Adel, when Khedr's family visited Wadi Al Natroun, officials at the prison told them that Khedr was not being held there.
They eventually found out that Khedr is currently detained at Al Hadra Prison in Alexandria to be able to complete his exams and that he was previously held in Torah Prison in Cairo.
“This ridicules the parliament and its members,” said Adel.
Meanwhile, Adel criticized the government's decision to turn a blind eye to the problems facing Egyptians in Sinai.
“Instead of trying to tackle the problems they are running away from them by arresting activists who are talking about those problems,” he said, citing issues such as high unemployment levels and the lack of clean drinking water in the governorates' major cities.
Last month, the decades-old emergency law was extended for two more years, a decision that was widely condemned by opposition groups and rights advocates.
The revised law, which omitted four articles and is now only restricted to cases of terrorism and the trafficking of narcotics, will be effective until May 31, 2012.
According to Ahmed Zikry of HMLC, the emergency law stipulates that the military ruler, President Hosni Mubarak, is the only one who has the right to arrest and detain individuals without charge in emergency cases, whereas what actually happens is that such orders are issued by the Minister of Interior.
“This proxy is false,” he said.
Zikry also criticized the decision to extend the law.
“The military rulers' orders will not be affected by the recent amendments,” he said.
Zikry hopes for the release of all political prisoners in order to facilitate an end to the emergency law altogether.
In addition, he said that among the center's future goals is to “draft new emergency laws based on a societal dialogue and in compliance with a democratic government that can only use them in emergency situations rather than declaring a general state of emergency.
“Egypt is not in a state of emergency,” he said.

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