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Egypt prosecutor-general orders arrest of 'Black Bloc' members

Prosecutor-general orders immediate arrest of all members of Egypt's newest 'revolutionary' faction; Lawyer charges opposition leader Sabbahi - among others - with involvement in masked group's establishment

Ahram Online, Tuesday 29 Jan 2013
Black Bloc
A member of the Black Bloc is seen during the protest in Tahrir Square in Cairo January 25, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)
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Egyptian Prosecutor-General Talaat Abdallah on Tuesday ordered the arrest of all members of the anti-state 'Black Bloc' group, which has made its appearance in recent anti-government demonstrations and disrupted traffic and Cairo's Metro line.

Abdallah directed police and Egypt's armed forces to arrest anyone suspected of being affiliated with the group. He also urged citizens to provide any information they have about the group or its members and assist in their arrest by authorities.

Charges were brought against the group by lawyer Khaled El-Masry, who accused it of inciting chaos across the country and torching the office of the Muslim Brotherhood's website (ikhwanonline) and several pharmacies.

El-Masry's lawsuit also accuses a handful of prominent opposition personalities with involvement in the group's establishment. These include former presidential hopeful Hamdeen Sabbahi, his presidential campaign coordinator Sherif Ashraf, Tahrir television channel owner Soliman Amer, and television presenter Dina Abdel-Fattah.

On Tuesday, Abdallah formally launched an investigation into the allegations.

Hussein Yassin, spokesman for Egypt's public prosecution, told state news agency MENA that investigations had revealed the Black Bloc to be an "organised, terrorist group."

"Sabotage, rioting and intimidation of citizens by the group makes it subject to penalty under Egypt's penal code," added Yassin

According to the public prosecution, withholding information about the group, promoting the group's image, or even dressing like its members could all result in legal penalties, as the Black Bloc's recent activities serve to "endanger the state's internal security."

The Bloc has been described as a "vigilante group," members of which are characterised by their black clothing, face masks and readiness to resort to violence to realise so-called 'revolutionary objectives.'

The group made its first public appearance last week during nationwide anti-government rallies marking the Tahrir Square uprising's second anniversary.

On Tuesday, the Bloc's 'Red Sea group' announced on an official Facebook page that it had dissolved its presence in the coastal governorate.

It went on to deny any responsibility for riots that have erupted across the country in recent days, claiming that charges to this effect were "trumped-up."

The group went on to call on members to take to the streets "wearing t-shirts" rather than their trademark black garb and face masks.

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