Three activists - Baho Bakhsh (a Saudi national and a business student at the American University in Cairo), Marwa Faruq (a lawyer), and Ibrahim el-Sahar (a journalist) were arrested at the Cairo's annual Bookfair.
The Popular Committee for Change issued a press release, dated January 30.
Some of it is excerpted here:
"Friday the 28th of January 2005, Egyptian security forces arrested three colleagues from the Cairo International Book Fair and charged them of distributing leaflets that oppose a new mandate for Mubarak and the inheritance of the presidency in Egypt, in addition to a call for a protest rally on the 4th of February at the Book Fair. The latter is the rally that has been called upon by the Popular Committee for Change, which demands a change in the constitution to the effect that Egyptians can elect their president from among more than one candidate, reduction of the authorities of the president, lifting of the emergency state and release of the detainees and prisoners of conscience. The demands have been endorsed by 11 political groups, 15 popular committees and organizations and more than 2000 individuals among whom are public figures, university professors, journalists, writers, artists, trade unionists, lawyers, engineers, and students. The state security prosecution has decided this evening to extend the imprisonment of the three activists for 15 days!!!
Security pressures to silence voices of the opposition had started since the first day of the launching of our campaigns and are escalating with the approach of the soap opera that will extend the presidency of Mubarak for a fifth term and our determination to continue our campaign no matter what the price we shall have to pay. At present preparations are under way to nominate Mubarak a single candidate for president followed by a free referendum under judicial supervision, after ensuring that all members of the opposition are held in prison!
The charges facing our three colleagues, the charge of opposing an extension for Mubarak into a fifth mandate and calling for a constitutional change that would grant the Egyptian people their violated right of choosing their rulers and hold them accountable"
Election years in Egypt are characterized by the government's tightening of the societal noose. The work to sure-up favorable electoral results is being done now. This is not a case straightforward electoral fruad (which will also happen in individual cases).
These activists were mobilizing for a demo on February 4th to protest extending the current president's mandate. The fact that such a demo happened on 12 December but is not allowed now is an incremental shift that needs noted.
Ayman Nor's detention is important, but complementary arrests are further obscuring the democratization that we were told is coming from Washington.