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Woman detained for promoting general strike on Facebook, released; student briefly detained for urging release of Internet activists

(HRinfo/IFEX) - HRinfo welcomes the 23 April 2008 release of Internet activist Esraa Abdelfattah.

Abdelfattah was first detained on 6 April, after she posted a call for a general strike on her Facebook webpage. She was released on 14 April following a decision by prosecutors, but the interior minister then issued a detention order against her based on the country's emergency law. She was held in the Kanater women's prison, 25 kilometers north of Cairo, until finally released again on 23 April.

The Ministry of the Interior has been systematically circumventing judicial decisions by courts and prosecutors to release activists accused of participating in the call for a peaceful strike on 6 April. The ministry has stretched the application of the emergency law for this purpose, and has used excessive force against dozens of young people who were not accused of exercising terrorism or violence, but who merely used the Internet to call for democracy.

With the Ministry of the Interior's expanding campaign of arrests against political and Internet activists, official Egyptian prisons - as well as illegal places of detention, such as the Central Security camps - are now full of such activists, to such an extent it has become difficult to estimate the actual number of detainees.

Gamal Eid, the executive director of HRinfo, said: "The intervention of the president himself for the release of these prisoners is becoming necessary, now that the Ministry of the Interior is running amok. Its excess is clearly evidenced by its arresting a girl under the emergency law merely for having participated in the call for a peaceful strike on her Facebook webpage".

HRinfo also condemned the arrest of university student Bilal Diab, who was detained by security personnel for a few hours because he urged the prime minister to advocate for the release of Internet activists during a 21 April meeting of the prime minister with the students of Cairo University. This unwarranted detention confirms how little respect security bodies demonstrate for the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

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