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Security forces conduct aggressive campaign against bloggers

(ANHRI/IFEX) - The following is a 23 October 2008 ANHRI press release:

Renowned Egyptian blogger Nora Younis has received the annual human rights award from a prominent US-based organization, Human Rights First, ( https://secure.ga1.org/05/support_heroes_hp ) for her extraordinary efforts defending human rights issues and advocating for the democracy movement in Egypt.

The Egyptian security apparatus is conducting an aggressive campaign against bloggers and Internet activists in many cities around Cairo. Christian blogger Hani Nazeer Aziz, who is based in Gena and owns the blog "Kariz Al Hub" ( http://haninazeeraziz.blogspot.com ), has been targeted. They are also persecuting several Islamic bloggers, including Mohamed Khairi, who is based in Fayoum, ( http://garshkal.blogspot.com ), Husam Yahia, whose blog is called "The Voice of Liberty" ( http://sotelhoria.blogspot.com ), Mohamed Adil, whose blog is "dead" ( http://43rab.info/meit ), and Bilal Alaa, whose blog is called "The Country is Ours" ( http://khabta.blogspot.com ). Both Mohamed Adil and Bilal Alaa are from Al Gharbia City and Husam Yahia is from Al-Daghlia.

The security apparatus arrested two of Hani Nazeer Aziz's brothers on the first of October and used them as hostages to force his surrender. On 3 October, he was informed that security officers were also going to arrest his sisters to put more pressure on him to give himself up. He turned himself in on the same day. Since then, he has not been seen, and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) learned only on 22 October that he had been detained under emergency law, which is the usual way in which the ministry of the interior deals with innocent people whom they want to detain without bringing charges against them,

Mohamed Khairi, the man who set up the Garshkal blog and a student in the faculty of engineering at Cairo University, was arrested in a surprise dawn raid on his home on 22 October, when his computer and paperwork were seized.

The other three bloggers mentioned above, Mohamed Adil, Bilal Alaa and Husam Yahia, all had their homes raided by the security forces. All three managed to avoid arrest, either by escaping or by being forewarned of the arrival of the "dawn visitors" (policemen from the state security department).

Gamal Eid, ANHRI's executive director, issued the following statement:

"It is no coincidence that the launch of a state security campaign against Egyptian bloggers happened at the same time as one of their colleagues was honoured by receiving an international award for human rights activism. The Egyptian government will never forgive bloggers for their key and consistent role in exposing numerous legal and human rights violations. As well as a reaction to their role in advocating for democracy in Egypt, the crackdown is also a response to the message of the Human Rights First award, which supports and encourages the efforts of Egyptian bloggers."

The arrest of Hani Nazeer Aziz comes in the wake of his criticism of a recently published novel, "Azazil", which was perceived by Egyptian Christians to be an attack on Christianity, to the point where some Christians published a counter attack on Islam called "Azazil in Mecca".

Instead of finding solutions to reduce the sectarian tensions between Muslims and Christians that exist in some areas of Egyptian cities, the authorities have found it easier to apply the security solution and to utilize emergency law to arrest the Christian blogger, an action which ANHRI believes has aggravated rather than soothed sectarian tensions.

The other bloggers, who were Islamic, were arrested and their houses were raided as a punishment for their contribution to the people's relief caravan that headed towards Gaza on 6 October to break the blockade imposed by occupying Israeli forces. This was a purely humanitarian gesture to show solidarity with the Palestinian state, which lies under the burden of occupation, a situation to which the Egyptian government at best turns a blind eye, and at worst is complicit.

ANHRI asserts that these bloggers have not committed any crime or broken any law. Any slight respect for the values of law and democracy should lead to legal and appropriate solutions for these problematic scenarios. Emergency law will never manage to deter Egyptian activists from forming and broadcasting their opinions.

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