By Jonathan Neale
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From Calcutta to Cairo

This article is over 18 years, 10 months old
During a weekend of anti-war protests in Cairo to coincide with 15 February's international day of action demonstrators were warned of more mass arrests. Riot police surrounded a rally to prevent supporters joining from the streets. They told young activists that they would be dragged to jail.
Issue 272

One of the protesters who was seized the week before has been released. Ibrahim al-Sahary, a journalist, was freed from Tura Prison on the Monday after the demonstration, leaving 11 activists still in jail.

A spokesman for groups campaigning for the prisoners’ release said, ‘Thanks to all those who have brought pressure on the Egyptian government–your contribution is invaluable and gives us confidence and courage. The news of mass marches in Europe, America and Australia gives us great hope. We heard that there were 2 million marchers in London. We know truly that we are not alone.’

Ibrahim al-Sahary was held for a week in solitary confinement and before his release was blindfolded, beaten and interrogated. Most of the prisoners–arrested since anti-war demonstrations began in mid-January–have been tortured by the use of electric shock treatment and repeated beatings.

Despite the arrests 2,000 people participated in the demonstration in central Cairo on 15 February. They were met by 5,000 riot police. One demonstrator said, ‘They encircled us tightly and then openly intimidated people, warning them that they too would be seized. Here prison means beatings and worse–but still people made a great effort to join in. The anti-war movement is attracting many who have not been political activists and who are learning fast about how the state treats us.’

Eleven people are still held. None have been charged–under Egypt’s military laws detainees may be held for weeks without formal allegations. Their spokeman says, ‘We urge all anti-war activists in the international movement to give us their help by protesting directly to Egyptian embassies. Your work is vital in freeing our friends and giving us the encouragement to continue our struggle.’

Jonathan Neale

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