News in brief

Smackdown in Cairo

In mid-March, four senior Egyptian officials told the Associated Press that 16,000 Egyptians had been jailed over the past eight months as part of the military crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.

A new law that bans all protests without a police permit has led to the arrest of secular activists as well as Brotherhood supporters.

Secular activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah was arrested with 24 others in November for organising a protest without permission and for assaulting police – charges he denies. A leading figure in the 2011 uprising, Abdel-Fattah was released on bail on 23 March.

Three other well-known secular activists have been less lucky, receiving three-year sentences for the same offences.

Crackdown in Cairo

There has been a serious and rapid deterioration of the human rights situation in Egypt, a coalition of 15 international NGOs told the UN human rights council in early March, including ‘repeated excessive use of force, including lethal force, by the security forces, leading to the death of hundreds of protesters’.

Officially, 650 civilians died during the clearing of just one pro-Morsi sit-in in Cairo last August, in Rabaa al-Adaweya Square. An independent monitoring group, Wiki Thawra, puts the true death toll at 969.

The craic in Cairo

On 3 March, members of the US peace group Code Pink landed in Egypt en route to an International Women’s Day conference in Gaza. At Cairo airport, conference co-organiser Medea Benjamin was detained overnight by the police, without explanation. Officials then violently handcuffed her, dislocating her shoulder and breaking her arm, and put her on a plane to Turkey. The US embassy refused assistance throughout.

Nobel peace laureate Mairead Maguire and Ann Patterson of the Northern Ireland Peace People, were detained at Cairo airport on 4 March on their way to the Gaza conference, and deported back to London.