Labour lawyer and activist Haitham Mohamedain was seized by Egyptian security forces early on Friday, according to local media reports and human rights activists. National Security officers and police were reported to have stormed his house, taking him away to an unknown location.
Haitham has been the target of repression by the Egyptian state many times in the past. He was one of over 1,000 people arrested in a crackdown on protests against the sell-off of the Tiran and Sanafir Islands by the Egyptian government to Saudi Arabia in April 2016.
Egypt’s state security prosecutor on Saturday ordered him to be detained for 15 days for investigation. According to reports from human rights activists in Egypt, he is being interrogated in relation to “incitement to protest over the price of Metro tickets.”
Some who allegedly protested over a recent steep rise in fares have been arrested and some subsequently released. Others are still being held.
It appears that Egypt’s security services have used the opportunity to seize Haitham.
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The Reuters news agency said on Friday that one of his supposed crimes could be “calling for the overthrow of the regime by publishing false news”. False news means anything the brutal regime dislikes.
Haitham is one of Egypt’s best known labour lawyers, and an activist with the Revolutionary Socialists.
He has worked tirelessly to defend striking workers from attack by the state and employers both on the picket line and in the courtroom, representing bus workers, health workers, steel workers and rail workers as well as victims of police torture and abuse.
He was arrested previously in September 2013 while on the way to represent steel workers in Suez who had been arrested after the police attacked their sit-in, sparking an international solidarity campaign supported by leaders of the British trade union movement.
Amnesty International has put out a statement saying, “Given the ongoing clampdown on dissent that has continued unabated since the presidential election, we are deeply concerned by Haitham Mohamadein’s arrest from his home early this morning. Haitham has defended hundreds of workers who have been persecuted for forming independent unions and agitating for better work conditions.
“The Egyptian authorities are known for using arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance to punish human rights lawyers and members of the opposition. As such there is a real possibility he is being ill-treated in detention by the authorities right now.”
Haitham must be released immediately
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