Seventeen Egyptians, working and living in Kuwait, were deported Saturday for violating the emirate's labor and immigration law, a Kuwaiti security official said.
The decision came one day after as many as 25 Egyptians -- including the deported -- were arrested in a Kuwait suburb following their organizing of a gathering to support potential Egyptian presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei and his National Front for Change.
Speaking to media on condition of anonymity, Kuwaiti sources added that the activists violated labor and immigration laws by gathering without official permission. While Kuwaiti officials have yet to comment on either the arrests or the deportations, Egyptian Foreign Ministry officials said they have heard about the news only from the Egyptian media.
The Egyptian ambassador to Kuwait, Tarek Farahat, said that "despite not being informed of any deportation decisions, Kuwaiti authorities have full sovereignty to extradite anyone living on its soil."
The deportations were criticized by local and international human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, which issued a statement saying Kuwait was enabling Egypt's repression by harassing ElBaradei's supporters.
"Kuwait's state security should stop arresting and deporting expatriate supporters of ElBaradei," read the statement. "Kuwait should immediately release all remaining Egyptian detainees and allow those deported to return to their homes in Kuwait."
Hassan Nafaa, the National Front for Change's general coordinator, expressed his bemusement at the Egyptian authorities' silence on the matter so far. The Egyptian daily Al Masry Al Youm reported on Sunday that Kuwaiti parliament insiders believe the Egyptian embassy in Kuwait is behind the deportations after it led local authorities to the activists' movements.
Following his return to Egypt on Feb. 18 after stepping down from his post as head of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency, ElBaradei formed the National Front for Change to pressure President Hosni Mubarak's regime for democratic reform. ElBaradei hopes that amending the constitution can help him and other independent candidates to run in the 2011 presidential elections.
-- Amro Hassan in Cairo
Photo: ElBaradei among some of his supporters. Credit: Victoria Hazou / AFP