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SECURITY FORCES DETAIN INTERNET ACTIVISTS

Egyptian security forces briefly detained an Internet activist who belongs to an anti-government group - the third detention in less than a month of a web activist in Egypt, reports the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI).

Rami al-Swisi, a member of the 6 April Youth Movement, was detained on 2 March for one day by security agents who raided his home in the middle of the night and seized his computer and mobile phone. His arrest came as the movement called for a national day of protest on 6 April, the anniversary of a general strike last year that deteriorated into violent clashes between police and workers.

The 6 April Movement was founded last year by young activists who claimed not to belong to any political parties or groups.

Under the slogan "young people who love Egypt", the movement began attracting wide support over the Internet as various political groups in Egypt called for a general strike on 6 April last year to protest rising food costs and stalled wages. Three people were killed and more than 150 injured when police and protesters clashed in the textile town of Mahalla el-Kubra, the culmination of more than a year of strikes by textile factory workers who were demanding more pay in the face of soaring inflation.

The 6 April group has since transformed into a more general protest movement, boasting 70,000 members through the social networking site Facebook, which along with blogs has emerged as a major forum for government critics in Egypt. The group is now calling for a new strike on 6 April 2009 over a wide range of socio-political issues, including corruption, poor education and high living costs.

Egyptian authorities have escalated tactics against bloggers and web activists in recent weeks even as the government freed opposition politician Ayman Nour, one of its most prominent critics.

Last month, security men detained Egyptian-German activist Philip Rizk and blogger Diaa Eddin Gad, who expressed support for Palestinians in the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip. Rizk was freed after several days following an international outcry. Gad remains held in an unknown location.

According to ANHRI, "It is clear a lack of punishment of the police for the crime of kidnapping Philip Rizk and Diaa Eddin Gad on 6 February encouraged them to perpetrate the same crime for a third time in less than a month."

Visit these links:
- ANHRI: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/101246/
- IFEX Egypt page: http://tinyurl.com/bx2zf4
- Menassat.com: http://tinyurl.com/b3c9mp
- 6 April Movement on Facebook: http://tinyurl.com/ate6j4
(11 March 2009)

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