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Egypt detains human rights lawyer representing anti-Sisi protesters

Massry taken into custody leaving prosecutor's office in Cairo where she had attended investigations as lawyer for several of those arrested during demonstrations
Egyptian protesters shout slogans as they call for removal of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Cairo's downtown on 20 September (AFP)

Egyptian authorities on Sunday detained an award-winning human rights lawyer after she attended judicial investigations into protesters arrested during recent demonstrations against President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, her lawyer said.

Mahienour El-Massry "was arrested as soon as she left the State Security Prosecutor's headquarters in Cairo where she had attended the investigations as a lawyer for several of those arrested during the demonstrations", Tarek al-Awadi said.

Hundreds of Egyptians took to the streets in Cairo and several other cities across the country on Friday and in Suez on Saturday, to call for Sisi's departure.

According to the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights (ECRF), 365 people have since been arrested, AFP reported.

“We’re continuing to get cases around the clock,” said Mohamed Lotfy of ECRF. “I think the riot police and the ministry of the interior didn’t expect this size of protests,” the Guardian reported.

ECRF recorded arrests in at least 12 locations, including Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Suez, and towns such as Dakahlia, Qalyubia and Kafr el-Sheikh.

In a statement issued on Sunday, Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS), which accredits foreign media representatives, said it has “carefully monitored” the coverage of the protest, according to the Associated Press.

It called for reporters to “strictly abide by professional codes of conduct” and for media to provide space for “viewpoints to be presented in an equal manner and that includes the viewpoint of the State or who represents it”, noting that the SIS has issued similar statements in the past amid sensitive events.

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The SIS also warned that “social media outlets should not be considered as sources of news” because of the numerous “fake accounts and fabrications”.

AP said that while false information about protests has appeared on social media, including videos of protests from years past presented as if they were happening live, social media have also been vital for getting out authentic videos of protests since they are the only venue not dominated by the government.

NetBlocks, an organisation that tracks internet outages, tweeted Sunday evening that Facebook Messenger, BBC News and social media servers were being "restricted in #Egypt by leading providers", adding that the incident was "ongoing".

Clips of the demonstrations had been widely shared on social media.

Massry, a political activist and human rights defender, has been tried and jailed twice for taking part in demonstrations.

In December 2013, after the army's overthrow of then-president Mohamed Morsi following mass protests, she was arrested and imprisoned until September 2014 on charges of participating in a demonstration without a permit.

While in prison, Massry received the Ludovic Trarieux Award, an international prize given out annually to a lawyer for contributions to human rights.

In 2015, Massry was given another year-long sentence for taking part in a sit-in during Morsi's rule.

Egypt effectively banned protests under a law passed after Morsi's 2013 downfall.

Sisi was elected president the following year with 96.9 percent of the vote.