Egyptian authorities order release of 2 foreigners accused of inciting labour unrest

Ahram Online, Monday 13 Feb 2012

Egyptian authorities order release - yet to be implemented - of American and Australian suspected of instigating labour unrest in Mahalla; Egyptian interpreter, meanwhile, also remains in detention

Authorities on Sunday ordered the release of two foreign nationals detained over the weekend on suspicions of instigating labour unrest in Egypt.

The release order, however, has not yet been carried out, as it still requires the approval of Egypt’s National Security apparatus.

US national Derik Ludovici and Australian journalist Austin Mackell were both arrested on Saturday in the industrial city of Mahalla Al-Kubra in Egypt’s Nile Delta. Their Egyptian interpreter, Alia Elwy, and textile unionist Kamal El-Faymoui, who the two men had been interviewing, were also arrested.

An Egyptian driver accompanying the four individuals was also detained.

Authorities have accused Ludovici and Mackell of bribing Egyptian workers to join on-going calls for labour strikes. According to lawyer Rajia Omran, five Egyptian workers have alleged that the two men had given them money to participate in a general strike.

Unionist El-Fayoumi was reportedly released Sunday night after giving testimony to prosecutors, who also ordered Elwy’s release. The latter, however, remains in detention even though she has not been formally charged with a crime.

“There is no valid reason for Elwy’s continued detention,” said Omran. “As an Egyptian citizen, her release doesn’t require permission from the National Security apparatus.”

The arrests were made amid calls by Egyptian revolutionary groups for a nationwide general strike on Saturday, timed to coincide with the first anniversary of former president Hosni Mubarak's 11 February ouster. The strike action is intended to press for the immediate handover of power from Egypt’s ruling military council to a civil authority.

Few Egyptian workers ended up answering calls to strike, however, although several university student groups have participated.

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