Cable sobre la detención de blogueros por intentar boicotear la visita de Naga Hamadi

ID:244171
Date:2010-01-19 14:52:00
Origin:10CAIRO99
Source:Embassy Cairo
Classification:CONFIDENTIAL
Dunno:08CAIRO862 10CAIRO59
Destination:VZCZCXRO1905
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHEG #0099/01 0191452
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 191452Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4751
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 000099

SIPDIS

DRL FOR A/S POSNER
NEA FOR CONNELLY/WITTES

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/19/2030
TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, KDEM, KIRF, EG
SUBJECT: ACTIVISTS, BLOGGERS DETAINED WHILE ATTEMPTING TO
VISIT NAGA HAMADI

REF: A. CAIRO 59
B. 08 CAIRO 862

Classified By: Economic-Political Minister-Counselor
Donald A. Blome for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. KEY POINTS

-- (SBU) The GOE arrested and detained a group of about 30
activists and bloggers the morning of January 15 as they
arrived in Naga Hamadi to visit the families of those killed
in the January 6 sectarian shootings (ref A).

-- (SBU) The group of detainees included activists from
secular opposition political parties and movements, bloggers
and journalists. One member told us the group also planned
to speak to Coptic families about sectarian tensions in Naga
Hamadi.

-- (SBU) The government released the detainees during the
mid-afternoon of January 16. Lawyers confirmed there are
three criminal code charges (not under the Emergency Law)
related to illegal assembly pending against the group, but
did not expect the government to take further action on the
case.

-- (C) The Ambassador, DCM and ECPO Minister-Counselor raised
concern over the case with senior GOE officials, and urged
the GOE to release the detainees.

2. (C) On the morning of January 15, police arrested a group
of approximately 30 activists, bloggers and journalists at
the Naga Hamadi train station in the Upper Egyptian
governorate of Qena as they disembarked from their train en
route to the town of Naga Hamadi. According to one detainee,
blogger Wael Abbas who met with A/S Posner in Cairo January
14, the group planned to pay condolence calls on the families
of those killed during the January 6 sectarian shootings in
Naga Hamadi (ref A), and speak to Copts about sectarian
tensions in the area. Abbas said police beat and lightly
injured blogger Ahmed Bedawi during the arrests "for no
apparent reason."

3. (C) Contacts told us that following the arrests, police
detained the male members of the group in a nearby facility,
and held the female members in an area hospital. Contacts
understood that secular opposition politician Osama
El-Ghazali Harb, who was in Naga Hamadi at the time on a
separate visit to the victims' families, was concerned that
police would abuse the women, and therefore convinced
authorities to hold the female members in a hospital. Harb
told us separately that he was in Naga Hamadi with members of
his Democratic Front Party and leaders of the Kifaya
movement, including George Ish'aq.

4. (SBU) The group included bloggers, journalists, activists
from secular opposition parties such as El-Ghad and the
Democratic Front Party and movements such as "Kifaya" and
"April 6. A lawyer for the group confirmed that a French
activist was among the detainees. Some of the detainees are
participants in Freedom House's "New Generation" program
which provides training for young activists. One member of
the group departed for Washington January 18 to participate
in a Project on Middle East Democracy program. Contacts
confirmed that activist and El-Ghad party member Israa Abdel
Fattah was also part of the group. (Note: Abdel Fattah was
the subject of headlines in April 2008 when she was arrested
and detained for 17 days after her call for an April 6
general strike on Facebook attracted almost 70,000 members
(ref B). Following her release, she renounced her activities
in a television interview, and has remained out of public
view until now. End note.)

5. (C) The government released the detainees mid-afternoon on
January 16. Contacts told us the release was contingent on
the activists' agreement to depart Upper Egypt immediately
for Cairo on private rented buses. Wael Abbas told us that
police did not abuse him or the other male detainees in
custody, but did not provide them with beds or blankets.
Activist contacts close to the detainees told us they
welcomed the Department's January 16 public statement of
concern.

6. (C) Lawyers for the group confirmed to us that three penal
code charges related to illegal assembly are currently
pending against those arrested. The lawyers expected the
government to keep the case open, ostensibly pending
investigation, but that the public prosecutor would not order

CAIRO 00000099 002 OF 002


a trial.

7. (C) Beginning on January 15, we expressed concern over the
detentions to senior GOE officials. Ambassador noted our
concern to Presidential spokesman Soliman Awad, and DCM
contacted MFA Senior Advisor and Spokesman Hossam Zaki.
Economic-Political Minister-Counselor raised the issue with
MFA Deputy Assistant Minister for Human Rights Wael Aboulmagd
who defended the GOE decision to arrest the activists "to
prevent further violence."
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