Egypt rights groups slam activist phone tap 'leaks'

Ahram Online , Wednesday 1 Jan 2014

Egyptian rights groups decry the broadcast of 'phone recordings' of activists, call on prosecution to take action against illegal eavesdropping and broadcasting private conversations

A still shot from the television show hosted by Abdel-Reheim Ali showing photos of Moustafa El-Naggar (L) and Abdel-Rahman Youssef (R) as the alleged recording of their phone conversation was played.

Egyptian rights groups have called on Egypt's prosecutor general to investigate the broadcast of mobile phone conversations attributed to Egyptian activists by television host Abdel-Rehim Ali on the private satellite channel Al-Qahera Wal Nas.

The groups said that recording private phone conversations, and broadcasting them, are illegal acts, invoking the Egyptian penal code, which clearly prohibits such acts.

In a series of episodes, Ali aired recordings that included 6 April Youth Movement leaders Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel, former MP Mostafa El-Naggar and poet Abdel-Rahman Youssef.

The recordings are illegal and a breach of privacy, the groups said, "reminiscent of the ugly practices of the Mubarak regime and the political police apparatus known as State Security," a joint statement signed by the rights organisations read.

Signatories of the statement include the Egyptian Network for Human Rights Information, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights, the Hesham Mubarak Law Centre and the Haqaniyya Centre.

Egypt dismantled the Mubarak-era state security Apparatus in March, 2011 days after activists stormed its headquarters shortly after the fall of Mubarak.

The storming of the State Security buildings was aired live on many TV channels which hailed the fall of the notorious agency and its "reform" when it was renamed the National Security apparatus.

The storming of the building happened in the presence of military forces who did not attempt to prevent protesters from entering and eventually pleaded for them to leave the building.

Activists denounce, host warns

Among the recordings was an alleged phone call where El-Naggar spoke to Youssef about seeing his file when protesters broke into the State Security building in Cairo.

The host, Abdel-Rehim Ali, decried El-Naggar's statements saying some of the files were smuggled out of the building.

Youssef — who heard the information in his file recounted by El-Naggar in the alleged phone call, and which said he was engaged in promiscuous relationships with many women  issued a statement accusing State Security of fabricating lies about him.

Youssef said the recordings were illegal and attacked Ali for broadcasting them, saying an "honest man would not be dragged to such cheap spying tactics and collaborating with oppressive bodies and disregarding the privacy of Egyptians."

Likewise, El-Naggar issued a statement on his Facebook page condemning what he insisted was an attempt by state bodies to defame the January 25 Revolution, mentioning the peaceful presence of the military who allowed protesters into the State Security building.

Ali said he was in possession of over 5,000 recordings, promising to release more of them gradually.

The statement issued by rights groups said Ali's intention shows clear disregard and defiance of the law, "as if he is impervious to punishment," which leaves greater onus on the prosecution to affirm its credibility and impartiality with regards to implementing the law, regardless of the political affiliations of violators.

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