Rights group director latest in chain of Egypt arrests

CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian rights group said Thursday that its director has been arrested days after two of its other employees were taken into custody.

The arrests of the rights workers comes after they met with envoys from Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and other countries this month. In the meeting they discussed ways to improve Egypt’s human rights record, according to the group.

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights said that its executive director, Gasser Abdel-Razek had been taken from his home in Cairo to an undisclosed location.

Karim Ennarah, director of criminal justice at the group, was also arrested Wednesday while on vacation in the Red Sea resort of Dahab in South Sinai. Three days previous, security forces detained Mohamed Basheer, the rights group’s administrative director, in Cairo.

On Thursday, on the state security prosecutor ordered the detention of Ennarah for 15 days pending investigations of terror changes.

France’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday voiced its “deep concern” over Basheer’s arrest. Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Hafez responded Wednesday by calling France’s reaction “an interference in Egypt’s internal affairs.”

He said in a statement that the EIPR’s work is illegitimate as it is registered as a firm not a nongovernmental organization.

The arrests are the latest in a years-long crackdown by the government of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on dissent. It has targeted not only Islamist political opponents but also secular pro-democracy activists, journalists and online critics.

A government media officer said he could not comment on the arrest of Abdel-Razek or the others, but referred to the Foreign Ministry’s earlier statement.

Rights observers have condemned the arrests, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, citing the group as one of the remaining independent voices on deteriorating human rights conditions in the country.

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