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Egypt: Torture for Bloggers and Activists

Egyptian bloggers, cyberactivists and activists on the ground continue to pay the price for speaking up against the rising cost of living and calling for higher wages and a better life. What started as a call for a strike on April 6, quickly spiralled out of control, with a face off between rioters, protesters and the police. Here's an account of what has happened and is still happening to some of the activists who have used the worldwide web to spread news of what is happening at home.

During the unrest, on April 6 and 7, Egyptian bloggers worked round the clock telling the world about the workers’ revolt that shook their country, as thousands rioted at a textile mill in Al Mahalla. They were also among the first casualties of the unrest, which left some killed, scores injured and an undetermined number of activists, organisers and mere spectators behind bars. Their coverage came in the form of blog posts, YouTube videos, Twitter feeds, Flickr shots, Facebook messages and all other online tools they could get their hands on.

The saga seems to continue, as some activists are still detained, six weeks after their arrest, prompting calls from their colleagues for their immediate release. Others, allegedly harassed, physically abused and later released by the police, continue to use online tools to tell the world their story.

Ahmed Maher

This is one of many images of the back of Egyptian Facebook user Ahmed Maher, taken by award winning blogger Wael Abbas and posted here, under the title: The Newest Egyptian Method to Find Out Your Facebook's Account Password.

أحمد ماهر هو المؤسس الحقيقي لجروب الإضراب على الفيس بوك وليست إسراء عبد الفتاح كما زعموا والسبب في وجود إسمها وحدها على الجروب الآن هو أن فيس بوك أوقفت حساب أحمد ماهر لأنه كان يرسل عدد ضخم من الرسائل يوميا ليضم أعضاء للجروب وكان هذا المجهود هو سبب إنضمام أكثر من سبعون ألف عضو للجروب فإعتبره سبامر واوقفوا حسابه بينما كان كل دور إسراء هو المساعدة في الإدارة وحذف التعليقات المسيئة فقط لكن بعض وسائل الإعلام كانت تبحث عن قصة شيقة وبالونة لنفخها ولم يكن همهم أبدا الدقة في المعلومة أو البحث عن الحقيقة والقصة السليمة مما أضر بالحركة الوطنية من اجل التغيير ككل وبمصداقية نشطاء الإنترنت خصوصا وهو أمر لا يمكن التسامح ف

Ahmed Maher is the real founder of the Strike's Facebook Group and not Esraa Abdulfattah as everyone assumed. The reason why her name alone appears on the group until now is because Facebook suspended Ahmed Maher's account because he used to send huge numbers of messages daily for new members to join the group. It was as a result of this effort that more than 70,000 members joined. They considered him as a spammer and closed his account while Esraa's role was to help in administrating the site and deleting derogatory comments only. Some media organisations, which were looking for an exciting story and a balloon to blow, were not concerned with the accuracy of the story or looking for the truth. This has negatively impacted the national movement for change overall and the credibility of cyberactivists, in particular and this is an issue we can't forgive.

Elijah Zarwan tells us what happened to Maher:

I’ve just heard from a friend that Ahmed Maher, a 27-year-old engineer quoted in the Western press as a May 4 Facebook activist, is alleging that he was beaten in State Security custody. Details are still sketchy, but apparently State Security called him in for a “friendly” coffee earlier this week. When he didn’t go, my friend tells me, State Security took him from his home in the middle of the night, beat him, and released him with the warning that they were “just pulling his ear” this time, and that next time would be worse. He is reportedly in hospital now.

And Abbas posts the following video showing the extend of torture Maher has been subjected to:

In the video [Ar], Maher says how his clothes were ripped off by the police and then shows us scars on his back which he says were caused by policemen beating him on his back with their bare hands.

Blogger Hossam el Hamalawy links to a newspaper report on what happened to the Facebook user and how he was arrested and tortured by police here.

Hamalawy also draws our attention to the plight of blogger and activist Kareem Al Beheiri, who has been behind bars since April 7. He writes:

In an interview with el-Badeel, released Karama Party activist Ahmad Amin Ahmad Eid said that:

Kareem el-Beheiri was tortured in Mahalla’s State Security Police office for more than 18 hours. He told me his torturer was listening to the Quran while torturing him. I saw in Mahalla’s 2nd Police Station children no more than 13 years old, whose eyes and bodies were injured by rubber bullets. They said police kidnapped them from the hospital where they were receiving treatment and accused them of participating in the strike.

Hamalawy also reports that Mohamed Maree, a translator who was arrested along with American photojournalist James Buck, while interviewing the families of those arrested in Mahalla, has been tortured. While Buck was released and asked to leave the country, Maree continues to languish in prison, despite an outcry from activists for his release. Hamalawy writes:

The latest information we have on Mohamed was by rights lawyers who visited Bourg el-Arab Prison on Saturday:

We managed to visit Bourg el-Arab Prison today. It turned out that translator Mohamed Saleh Maree is detained as a ‘criminal’ after he was detained in the company of US journalist James Buck. The latter was released by the police in Mahalla after pressures from his embassy, but Mohamed Saleh was kept in custody despite a release order from the prosecutor. We couldn’t back then find out where he was kept. Today we visited him, and he mentioned he was tortured by beatings and electric shocks in Mahalla’s State Security office. Mohamed was also banned by the prison administration from taking his exam at the university.

Buck continue to fight for his colleague's freedom and is spearheading a campaign to draw the world's attention to his friend's plight. He has also set up a petition on his blog calling for Maree‘s release.

6 comments

  • […] Global Voices Online » Egypt: Torture for Bloggers and Activists Jesus. Scary stuff. (tags: global.voices egypt new.politics protest food) […]

  • A letter Kareem Al Beheiri, Kamal El-Fayyoumy and Tareq Amin sent to the Judges’ Club. Translated by Amnesiac.

    Letter to the Judges’ Club

    We, three political detainees, address the letter below to the Judges’ Club and its head Zakareya Abdel Aziz from the Borg el-Arab Prison in Alexandria…

    Dear Sir,

    A week has passed on our hunger strike and we are extremely weak. We are appealing to you as the last and only resort for all who have suffered injustice in Egypt.

    We would like in the beginning to correct certain information which has reached the press about our (the three of us) having been transferred to the prison hospital as a result of our hunger strike.

    The truth is that we are still in prison after the administration refused to call an ambulance to take us to hospital, and as a result of the inability of Karim el-Beheiry and Tareq Amin to stand on their feet – as a result of their extreme weakness. Instead, a “nurse” was summoned to examine Karim, whose condition has seriously deteriorated.

    We would like to know the reason why we remain in detention. We will continue the hunger strike until we either die or receive this information.

    We were tortured in the state security headquarters in Mahalla on the 6th, 7th and 8th April. Officers tortured Karim using electricity while Tareq Amin and Kamal el-Fayyoumy were insulted verbally and physically assaulted. We then spent eleven days in Borg el-Arab prison in a cell with individuals with criminal convictions. When the Tanta court ordered that we be released we were held for four days in the El-Salam police station [noqtat shorta] situated between Mahalla and Tanta before we were taken to Borg el-Arab prison were we began our hunger strike.

    From our detention cell, we call on you and all political currents to take action and apply pressure in order to secure the release of all those detained in connection with the events of Mahalla.
    Signed
    Kamal El-Fayyoumy, Tareq Amin, Karim El-Beheiry
    Detained workers from Mahalla
    Borg el-Arab Prison
    Wing 22, Cell 5

  • […] the most common reasons for arrests involves organizing protests – the reason cited for five of Egypt’s nine arrests in 2007, as well as detentions in Burma, China and […]

  • Ronald Hugar

    What has been the fate of these brave men?

  • […] al Hussaini at Global Voices wrote on May 16: Egyptian bloggers, cyberactivists and activists on the ground continue to pay the price for […]

  • […] ventures, and the transparent nature of the web means that elites and bosses are always watching. Several Egyptian bloggers were jailed last year after participating in calls for a general strike. Facebook recently closed the account […]

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