Sunday, May 11, 2008

Egypt police 'stripped and beat Facebook activist'

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has condemned the treatment by Egyptian police of an activist who was stripped, beaten and threatened with rape after using Facebook to back calls for a general strike.

"This is the work of thugs, pure and simple," said Joe Stork, Middle East deputy director at the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

"The Government must show that those responsible for upholding the law are also subject to the law."

Ahmed Maher Ibrahim, a 27-year-old civil engineer from Cairo, was arrested on May 7 after using the social networking site on the internet to support calls for a general strike on May 4, according to a statement by HRW.

He was "blindfolded ... taken to a police station where they stripped him naked and beat him intermittently for 12 hours," HRW said.

Mr Ibrahim was taken to state security headquarters where his captors "threatened to rape him with a stick and continued kicking, beating and insulting him," HRW said.

An Egyptian security official who requested anonymity denied the incident ever took place.

Mr Ibrahim told HRW that state security officers released him before dawn on May 8 but with the warning that he would be beaten more severely the next time he was detained.

"Egyptian authorities must immediately investigate and prosecute those security officials responsible for beating Ahmed Maher Ibrahim," HRW said.

A nationwide call for a day of protest on May 4 against price hikes and curbs on freedoms across Egypt went largely unheeded.

A day of nationwide action called for April 6 saw riots erupt in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla where three people died and hundreds were detained after demonstrators pulled down posters of President Hosni Mubarak.

Esraa Abdel Fattah, 27, who created the Facebook group calling for the April 6 strike, was arrested and jailed for three weeks for "inciting unrest."

In recent months Egypt has seen a number of strikes and protests against low salaries and price rises that have been the one of the most serious challenges to the Mubarak regime.


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