Hundreds of members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of Egypt’s deposed president, Mohammed Morsi, have been detained the last couple of weeks, accused of inciting or participating in violence.
However, according to eyewitnesses in Cairo and Alexandria, the police are also detaining liberals, revolutionaries and civilians who might have relatives within the Muslim Brotherhood.
A few days ago, Ahmed Sharin was standing on his balcony in Zamalek, a neighborhood in Cairo, when he saw two 17-year-old girls being arrested for carrying weapons. Police men threw them in a car and drove them to the police station. He didn’t know the girls, but according to him, they were just walking around.
"They probably thought those girls participated in the Muslim Brotherhood protests. This happens a lot lately. Everybody who showed their faces during protests might be a terrorist. It reminds me of a witch hunt," he told Al-Monitor.
He thinks that the Egyptian police and army are arresting anyone who objects the current situation. As he heard several stories of cab drivers with beards being beaten up, Muslim Brotherhood leaders being detained and young liberals being accused of "espionage," he wasn’t even surprised when he witnessed the arrest of the two girls.
Egyptian authorities detained more than 60 people associated with the Muslim Brotherhood in less than 24 hours, including relatives of the group’s leaders, the Associated Press reported Aug. 28. Many of them have been accused of inciting violence, while the local media describe the actions of the Brotherhood and its supporters as "acts of terrorism."
In a widening campaign, police have started going after members’ relatives, including a US citizen. Mohamed Soltan, the son of an outspoken Brotherhood figure, was detained Aug. 26 in the latest round-up of Brotherhood supporters.
The graduate of Ohio State University was active online in support of the Brotherhood and had posted a picture of his arm after he was shot during a raid on the sit-ins two and a half weeks ago. His father is already wanted by police on charges that he incited violence during speeches.
The Egyptian police captured senior Muslim Brotherhood official Mohamed El-Beltagi on Aug. 29, after Beltagi had urged Egyptians to join rallies against the military on Friday, Aug. 23.
"Jafar Yassin," who doesn’t want his real name to be published, is also the son of a well known Muslim Brotherhood leader. He told Al-Monitor that his family is terrified that police officers will arrest his father too, or worse, that they might torture or kill him.
Jafar added, "A lot of my relatives are already facing charges, as they sympathized with the Brotherhood or didn’t agree with the crackdown of the army. On Aug. 27 they searched the house of Bassem Ouda, a former member of Morsi’s cabinet. Police officers broke much of his property, but it seems he hasn’t been arrested yet. And another Muslim Brotherhood member was questioned last week. Nobody has heard from him since."
In July, 2013, Amnesty International published a report about the arrests of Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters, urging Egypt’s authorities to ensure that investigations into the political violence in the run-up to and since 30 June are independent, impartial and full, and with an aim of delivering truth and justice to all victims.
Egypt has a long history of police abuses and political prosecutions. However, the excessive use of violence and the numbers of detained Egyptians are the worst since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in 2011. More than 1,000 people, mostly Morsi supporters, have been killed since mid-August.
Hundreds of Egyptians were arrested in Cairo, and Mohammed Ghany, an English teacher, told Al-Monitor that the same kinds of arrests are happening in Alexandria.
"Two of my friends got detained during the past week. One, a humanities teacher, was arrested while standing within the vicinity of an anti-coup protest, and another was arrested near his home, which is close to the protests. Both were originally charged with carrying weapons. One has been released, but the other is still in custody. Neither of them supports the Brotherhood or has weapons."
According to Mohammed, the one that was released used his connections within the Egyptian army to get out of prison. But he was tortured from the moment he was arrested until he was allowed to leave. Some of his bruises are still visible, he said.
The most common allegations in Egypt are "carrying weapons," "espionage" or "betrayal of the nation." Mohammed also heard about one incident in Alexandria in which someone was taken into questioning based on a warrant.
He explained, "This individual lives near the Ministry of Interior headquarters and was cutting a laundry line with scissors. It seems that some officer saw him, managed to obtain a search warrant almost immediately, searched the home, took the person in for questioning, and then released him.’
Some in Egypt fear that the Brotherhood’s political party and its allies could be barred from politics and be forced back underground. However, the Muslim Brotherhood is still planning new rallies on Friday, along with the April 6 youth movement.
The April 6 youth movement announced it will stand up against violence, hatred and "the fierce campaign against anyone who speaks about human rights and the values of justice and reconciliation." Also, they demand that detained activists from the movement, like Karim Samir, be released.
Brenda Stoter is a Dutch journalist who writes about Egypt and Syria and about Kurds in Iraq and Turkey. Her articles have been published by Al Jazeera as well as featured in Dutch national newspapers and magazines, including Algemeen Dagblad, NRC Next, Het Parool and Elsevier. On Twitter: @BrendaStoter
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