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Egypt: At least one protester killed in anti-Sisi protests, hundreds detained

Thousands took part in 'day of rage' protests on Friday calling on President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to step down
In this file photo, taken on 25 April 2016, Egyptian riot police fire teargas towards protesters as they demonstrate in Cairo (AFP)

Egyptian security forces killed at least one protester on Friday during countrywide protests calling for President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to step down, a rights group told Middle East Eye.

Egypt sees 'day of rage' as thousands protest against Sisi across the country
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The protests first broke out last Sunday in response to a call by exiled whistleblower and activist Mohamed Ali, who later urged Sisi's opponents in the country to take part in a "day of rage" on Friday to demand the head of state's departure. 

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Residents of at least 40 villages have responded to the call, according to video footage posted online and shared by Ali's supporters in the absence of coverage by pro-government Egyptian media. 

According to Ahmed Mefreh, director of the Geneva-based Committee for Justice, a 25-year-old protester was shot dead by riot police in the village of Balayda in Giza governorate. 

"Our team has documented the death of Sami Wagdi Bashir in the village of Balayda, and a number of wounded," he told MEE.

Other reports claimed that three protesters, including a child, were killed in the same village on Friday, but MEE could not independently verify them. 

"A man's body bearing birdshot wounds to the face and chest arrived at the hospital overnight Saturday," AFP quoted medical sources at al-Ayat hospital in Giza as saying.

A security source denied police fired birdshot on protesters, saying only tear gas was used to disperse the rally. The source added that an investigation had been started into the killing.

On 20 September last year, Egypt witnessed rare anti-government protests ignited by Ali, who is in self-imposed exile in Spain after his video testimonies exposing corruption by the president and his entourage went viral. 

The former owner of an Egyptian construction company, Ali claims to have witnessed corruption by Sisi during years of cooperation with the army in the implementation of a large number of construction projects, including luxury homes for the president's family and friends. 

This year, Ali asked Egyptians to take part in protests starting on Sunday to denounce commodity price increases and the ongoing demolition of houses constructed without licensing or on farmland.

The demolition campaign has reportedly affected hundreds of thousands of low-income Egyptians, who are facing either eviction or heavy fines payable on their unlicensed residential buildings. 

In a seemingly preemptive move, the government announced one day before Friday's protests that it would extend its ultimatum for applying for reconciliation payments until the end of October. The government has also proposed reductions in fines following Ali's calls. 

However, announcements by the government have failed to prevent the protests.

Hundreds detained

Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters have reportedly been detained since the wave of protests that have erupted in mainly rural areas across the country since Sunday. 

Mohamed Ahmed, a human rights lawyer, has documented the arrest of at least 286 protesters since 20 September. 

A protest in Bani Ahmed Village, al-Minya governorate, 25 September 2020

In addition to those arrested in the latest crackdown, thousands remain in custody since last year's September protests, according to Amnesty International.

Those arrested in recent raids are facing charges of "joining a terrorist group," "broadcasting false news," "misusing social media" and illegal protesting, according to human rights lawyers handling their cases. 

Sisi's government is accused of holding tens of thousands of political prisoners in jail on trumped-up charges. Many have died in custody due to medical negligence or other poor prison conditions, including deposed president Mohamed Morsi. 

Human Rights Watch said that Sisi's reign had witnessed the country's worst crackdown on human rights in its modern history.

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