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EGYPT: Arrests of three dissidents anger human-rights groups

Harb150910_fullThe brief detention this week of surgeon and political activist Shadi Ghazaly Harb by state security officials was the third incident of its kind in recent days to be condemned by human-rights advocates as authorities tighten their grip on dissidents in Egypt.

Harb, a liver transplant specialist and lecturer at Cairo University, was arrested at Cairo Airport on Tuesday while enroute to take his postgraduate exams at the Royal College of Surgeons in London. An active member of both the Democratic Front Party and Mohamed El Baradei's National Front for Change, Harb was released after 36 hours of interrogation.

The detention came a few days after the arrests of Harb's fellow Party and Front members Amr Salah and Ahmed Eid, who were both temporarily held by authorities without any charges on Sept. 9 and 10 respectively.

The Washington-based rights group Freedom House criticized the arrests, adding that such a "trend is especially worrying since Egypt is heading for parliamentary elections in two months."

A statement issued by the Arabian Network for Human Rights Information said that: "The frequent disappearance of activists lately without any comment from the Ministry of Interior and with the ... silence of the prosecution and reluctance to investigate (these incidents) clearly points" to the highest levels of government.  

Following his release, Harb said that after checking in for his British Airways flight heading to the U.K, he was stopped by security officers and was later handcuffed, blindfolded and put in a car by plainclothes officers.

"I was put in a small cell and asked if there was a secret organization affiliated to the National Front for Change planning to carry out mass demonstrations in the near future," Harb, who's also the nephew of Democratic Front's founder and prominent activist Osama Ghazaly Harb, told Egyptian media.

Salah, a researcher at Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and responsible for promoting the Front among Egyptians living abroad, was questioned by state security officers last Thursday. Rights advocates say that he was beaten and held for a few hours before being released without charges. Eid saw the same fate one day later.

--Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: Shadi Ghazaly Harb in an anti-Egyptian regime protest in London. Credit: Al Destour

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