Tuesday, February 10, 2009

“We are fed up. Open the Rafah border.”

Slackman has a good piece in the New York Times: "State security came for Philip Rizk on Friday night. He had just finished a six-mile protest walk with about 15 friends to raise support for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip when he was detained for hours and then hustled into an unmarked van and driven off. He has not been seen or heard from since. For two days the authorities denied that he was being held. Then on Sunday, at 10 p.m., a security official at the American University in Cairo, where Mr. Rizk studies, was able to confirm his arrest to his family. His mother and father tried to get some sleep, but at 1 a.m., security agents showed up at their door, five plainclothesmen and two guards carrying automatic weapons. After searching their apartment, the security agents tried to take his father, Magid, away, too. He refused to go, and the authorities backed off when representatives of the German Embassy and Amnesty International arrived in the middle of the night. Philip Rizk’s mother, Judith, is German, and he has dual Egyptian-German citizenship. “It’s like a bad movie,” Mrs. Rizk said. The war in Gaza has left its mark in Egypt. The authorities here have been increasingly frustrated with criticism at home and abroad for refusing to fully open the border between Rafah and Gaza. Now, according to the accounts of five witnesses to Mr. Rizk’s arrest, and interviews with his parents, his sisters, human rights lawyers and some of his professors, it appears that the Egyptian authorities have turned to the country’s emergency law to silence criticism of its Gaza policy. The law, adopted to combat terrorism after President Anwar el-Sadat was gunned down in 1981, allows the government to detain people without charge and effectively eliminates any right to due process. The government acknowledges holding about 1,800 prisoners without charge under the emergency law, but human rights groups say the number could be closer to 10,000. The law is routinely used against members of the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned but tolerated social and political movement. Dozens of Brotherhood followers have been arrested since the start of the Gaza conflict." (thanks Phar)