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EGYPT: Detained human rights activists released

February 5, 2011 | 12:47 pm

General Amnesty International released a statement Saturday saying 35 foreign and Egyptian human-rights activists detained earlier in the week by the Egyptian military had been freed.

The London-based group is calling for an investigation into the detentions.

The detained activists included lawyers and journalists affiliated with Amnesty International and New York-based Human Rights Watch, according to the statement. The activists were arrested Thursday when military police raided the offices of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center in Cairo, the statement said.

The military released foreign activists first on Friday, followed by their Egyptian counterparts Saturday, the statement said.

"The Egyptian government should never have arrested human rights monitors and journalists in the first place," said Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth in a statement posted on the group's website.

Amnesty worker Said Haddadi, a French national, told the Associated Press that the group of detainees was handcuffed for an afternoon and evening, and blindfolded for most of the following 24-hour period.

Haddadi said that during an interrogation, the military told him that the group was being held for its own protection.

"We welcome the news that these activists have been freed, but we are outraged that they were detained in the first place and by the manner in which they have been treated," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa director, in the statement.

"We remain very concerned about activists belonging to groups such as the 6 April Movement,  the Youth of Justice and Liberty and the National Association for Change, who were detained in separate incidents on 3 February and whose whereabouts we are still trying to establish," Smart said, referring to several opposition groups.

"The Egyptian authorities must now carry out an urgent independent investigation into why human rights activists monitoring protests in Cairo were targeted in this way, and who gave the orders for it," Smart said in the statement.

--  Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Photo: An Egyptian army general lectures anti-government demonstrators at Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Saturday. Credit:  John Moore/Getty


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