New day, new arrests

Today both the judges facing disciplinary charges and some of the democracy activists arrested over April 24-27 had court sessions in the South Cairo Court in Bab Al Khelk. The court was surrounded by thousands of central security troops, who were also ligned up inside.

A few blocks away from the court, demonstrators were pinned in by troops. Here's an eye-witness account:
Ten protestors, out of a group of about twenty-five, were arrested by security forces in Bab el Khalq today, Sunday 7, at about 1pm.

The protestors were demonstrating, by the prosecutor's office/Niyabet Bab el Khalq, for the release of forty-seven detainees arrested during protests in solidarity with the Judges' Club's demands for the independece of the judiciary.

They were also protesting the renewal of the emergency law for another two years, and what they described as a new atmosphere of repression and heavy handedness on behalf of the ministry of the interior.

Well over 1,000 central security forces had sealed off the court housing the prosecutor's office.

A cordon of over one hundred central security forces sealed the demonstrators in on the street for three hours under the unrelenting heat of the sun. One protestor, Mohammad Awad, fainted due to dehydration and sun stroke. Having fallen to the ground the protestors demanded that he be released outside the cordon.

A high ranking police officer (wearing civilian clothes), Samy Sidhom, let Awad out (to be arrested) then ordered the arrests of the most vocal protestors (listed below.) The remaining protestors - men and women - were beaten, shoved out, and insulted as they were forced away.

These latest arrests bring the total number of opposition detainees arrested over the past two weeks to fifty-seven.

1) Alaa Seif al-Islam
2) Asmaa Ali
3) Rasha Azzab
4) Karim el-Shae'r
5) Mohamed Awad
6) Fadi Iskandar
7) Nada Qassas
8) Essam Sherif
9) Sara Abdel Gelil
10) Ahmad Abdel Ghaffar

I was there, before the arrests took place, and as a foreign journalist had relatively little trouble getting in and out of the cordon (although a security officer told me it was "dangerous" to go talk to protesters, and that if "you go in there, something might happen to you."

The other thing that happened while I was talking to protesters was that a man approached and said he really wanted to say something to BBC (I work for a radio program co-produced by the BBC). With central security troops listening over my shoulder, I braced myself for a scathing anti-Mubarak speech. Instead, he thanked me politely for coming to cover the demonstration and seemed to be commending the government. I was very confused until the other demonstrators explained he was an "infiltrator," a plain-clothes security cop. Way to go, Egyptian PsyOps.

Today I also talked to the wife of another activist who was arrested last week and is currently in detention. She says he's been threatened with torture, that he and others have started a hunger strike, and that she figures they'll all be kept locked up throughout the May 25 anniversay of last year's referendum, when they might have been expected to organize demos.
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Ursula Lindsey

Ursula Lindsey is the managing editor of the Arabist blog. She writes about culture, education and politics in the Arab world. She lived in Cairo from 2002 to 2013 and got her start at the ground-breaking independent magazine Cairo Times. She was the culture editor of Cairo magazine in 2005-2006 and served as special projects editor at the independent news site Mada Masr in 2013-2014. She is the Chronicle of Higher Education's Middle East correspondent. She contributes to the BBC-PRI radio program The World, and has written for Newsweek, The New York Times, The New Yorker online, Bookforum and the blog of the London Review of Books.