In an escalating crackdown on one of Egypt’s leading human rights groups, National Security Agency officers arrested Karim Ennarah, the director of the criminal justice unit of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, at 2 pm on Wednesday while he was on vacation in Dahab in South Sinai and took him to an unknown location, according to a brief statement by the group.
Security forces had gone to Ennarah’s home in Cairo early Tuesday morning though he was not there. According to a friend of Ennarah’s who witnessed the arrest on Wednesday, Ennarah was sitting at a restaurant on the beach in Dahab when two plainclothes security agents approached the staff and asked for Ennarah. They questioned him for a few minutes before two more security agents arrived. They requested his phone and he turned it over. Then they took him away in a car. When Ennarah’s friends asked for his whereabouts they told them he was being taken to the local police station.
Ennarah’s friends went to the police station and confirmed he was there. When the security agents saw them, they escorted them back to Ennarah’s room, took his ID, laptop and other belongings and left, his friend said.
Amnesty International strongly condemned Ennarah’s arrest, calling it “outrageous.” Minutes before his arrest, Youm7 and Sawt al-Omma, two media outlets affiliated with the General Intelligence Service, published articles nearly simultaneously attacking EIPR and accusing it of plotting against Egypt to damage its reputation abroad and harm its national security.
Ennarah’s arrest comes three days after the arrest of Mohamed Basheer, the administrative manager of EIPR, from his home just after midnight on Sunday. The State Security Prosecution ordered Basheer to be detained for 15 days in remand detention on charges of joining a terrorist group, publishing false news, using an internet account to spread false news undermining public security and funding terrorism.
EIPR executive director Gasser Abdel Razek told Mada Masr at the time that Basheer’s arrest was a direct response by authorities to a meeting held at the group’s office earlier this month with various European diplomats and ambassadors to discuss the human rights situation in Egypt.
Abdel Razek expressed his shock that “a security force would feel threatened by a meeting with ambassadors,” especially since the diplomats were representatives of states with good relationships with Egypt, such as France, the UK and Germany. “Just like representatives meet people who work in arts, culture, agriculture, and health, they also meet with people who work in journalism and politics and human rights,” adding that human rights is part of the EU-Egypt Association Agreement, a free trade agreement, and that human rights are generally part of the annual review of these countries’ relationships with Egypt.
The French Foreign Ministry on Tuesday expressed “deep concern” over Basheer’s arrest, and noted that France maintains dialogue with Egypt on human rights issues and intends to continue this dialogue, and is committed to protecting human rights defenders.
Basheer’s arrest was also condemned by numerous human rights groups which called for his immediate release, including several local NGOs, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and EuroMed Rights, a network of 80 human rights organizations, institutions and individuals based in 30 countries in Europe and the Mediterranean region.
“By arresting Mohamed Basheer, a member of staff at one of Egypt’s most prominent independent human rights organizations, the Egyptian authorities have yet again shown their intolerance of any scrutiny of their abysmal human rights record, sending a chilling message to the embattled human rights community in Egypt that they remain at risk,” Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director, said in a statement.
[This article was originally published by Mada Masr on 18 November 2020.]