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Egyptian security forces arrest 19 rights activists and lawyers

Prominent human rights lawyer Huda Abdelmonem among those rounded up in early-morning raids
Human rights lawyer Huda Abdelmonem, 60, was arrested from her home at 1:30am (supplied)
Par MEE staff

Egyptian security forces arrested at least 19 human rights lawyers and activists in early morning raids on Thursday, according to Amnesty International.

At least eight women and 11 men were arrested, the human rights group said, including Huda Abdelmonem, a prominent human rights lawyer.

Abdelmonem was detained by police after they raided her flat in Cairo, her family said.

Six others in the Egyptian capital were arrested in the raids, according to two rights activists who spoke to Middle East Eye.

“Today’s chilling wave of arrests targeting the human rights community is yet another appalling setback for human rights in Egypt," said Najia Bounaim, Amnesty International's campaigns director.

"With these arrests the Egyptian authorities have once more demonstrated their ruthless determination to crush all activism and dismantle the human rights movement in the country. Anyone who dares to speak out about human rights violations in Egypt today is in danger."

Abdullah El Shamy, an Al Jazeera journalist and Abdelmonem's son-in-law, posted pictures of her ransacked flat on Twitter.

Gehad Khaled, Abdelmonem’s daughter, told MEE that police spent two hours searching the lawyer's flat in Nasr City in Cairo's east.

Translation: They searched the flat for more than two hours, took my mother and left.

Abdelmonem, 60, is a prominent human rights lawyer and activist who had a leading role in the 2011 revolution that ousted longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. She is a former member of the National Council on Human Rights.

Abdelmonem in court (Facebook)

Her family said in a statement that her whereabouts remain unknown. They are worried about her health, especially as she has recently been diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis - a blood clot in a vein in her leg affecting her movement and requiring regular medication.

Khaled told MEE that security forces burst into Abdelmonem’s flat at 1:30am when they were sleeping.

“They broke down the door, ransacked the flat and left with suitcases full of books and DVDs,” Khaled said.

Some of those arrested are supporters of the work of the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), which announced on Thursday that it has suspended its activities indefinitely.

Ahmed Attar, a London-based researcher at ECRF, said his organisation has decided to suspend its work because “the human rights climate in Egypt is not welcoming to any NGO work”.

The executive director of ECRF, lawyer Ezzat Ghonim, has been missing for months.

“Continuing to target ECRF and human rights defenders in Egypt constitutes a premeditated crime that requires the intervention of the UN Human Rights Council,” Attar told MEE.

He called on the government-appointed National Council for Human Rights to speak out against the arrests.

“The NCHR’s silence on the continuing crackdown on human rights defenders amounts to an implicit support for those practices, and places it as a culprit,” he said.

Thursday’s arrests are part of a crackdown on dissent led by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who came to power after leading a military coup against his predecessor, Mohamed Morsi.

Rights groups have documented at least 60,000 political prisoners since Sisi came to power in 2014, in a crackdown that Human Rights Watch has described as "the worst human rights crisis in the country in decades".

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