Activists demonstrate in solidarity with Mahienour El-Masry in Alexandria, 22 May (Photo courtesy of the Egyptian Center for Social and Economic Rights)
Egyptian police arrested a number of lawyers and activists in Alexandria on Thursday following a demonstration in solidarity with activist Mahienour El-Masry and eight others who were jailed this week on charges of holding an illegal protest.
At least five persons – including Alexandria Doctors Syndicate board member Taher Mukhtar – were arrested during Thursday's protest, according to Freedom for the Brave, a grassroots campaign formed in January of this year to call for the release of political detainees in Egypt.
On Tuesday, an Alexandria court upheld an earlier verdict sentencing El-Masry and eight other activists to two years in jail and fines of LE50,000 each for organising an unauthorised demonstration in December of last year.
The protest was held to mark the retrial of police officers charged with the death of Khaled Said, 28, who was beaten to death in Alexandria in 2010. His death was a major catalyst of the 2011 uprising, with police brutality a key focus of protesters anger.
Police on Thursday also raided the NGO office of the Egyptian Centre for Social and Economic Rights, which is directed by labour lawyer Khaled Ali, where a press conference in solidarity with El-Masry was held prior to the demonstration, said Freedom for the Brave.
Speaking at the press conference before the raid, Ali said that he has joined the defence team of El-Masry, who he praised for not shying away from a prison term.
"She chose her way and took the side of social justice," said the former presidential candidate and lawyer. "She is trying to give us all hope."
Ali then used the occasion to speak about Egypt's current opposition climate, insisting that all attempts to sabotage the 2011 revolution will fail – with one of the first things to go being the country's protest law, which bans all demonstrations not pre-approved by authorities.
Thursday also saw accounts of reporters at the scene of the protest being assaulted by police officers from Alexandria's security directorate, said Moatez El-Shennawy, media coordinator of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party (SPAP).
Speaking to Al-Ahram's Arabic news website, El-Shennawy also called for the suspension of the country's protest law and said that the interior ministry should be purged and restructured.
Thursday's arrests and raid are part of a wider crackdown on opposition figures launched shortly after the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. Originally targeting Morsi's supporters and members of his Muslim Brotherhood, the campaign has since broadened to include secular activists and vocal opponents of Egypt's interim authorities.