Bloggers held in Egypt without charge

New York, July 24, 2009–The Committee to Protect Journalists called on the Egyptian authorities today to explain why they have detained three bloggers this week without charge.  

Islamist blogger Abdel Rahman Ayyash, who writes for Al-Ghareeb (The Stranger), was arrested at the Cairo airport on Tuesday on his return from Turkey where he attended a youth conference, according to multiple news reports. Muslim Brotherhood member Magdi Saad, who used to blog at Yalla Mesh Mohem (Who Cares), was also arrested at the airport the same night after returning from a business trip, according to local news reports. Another Islamist blogger, Ahmad Abu Khalil, who blogs at Bayarek (The Lanterns), was arrested when security forces raided his home at dawn on Wednesday, according to local news reports.

On Thursday, Ayyash was transferred into the custody of State Security Police in the city of Mansoura, where he lives, while Saad was taken to State Security Police headquarters in Cairo, Daily News Egypt reported. Abu Khalil is being held at an unknown location.

“We are concerned about the well-being of these bloggers,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. “We call on the authorities to explain why Abdel Rahman Ayyash, Magdi Saad, and Ahmad Abu Khalil are being detained. These arrests are but the latest in an ongoing attempt to silence online journalism in Egypt.”

Wael Abbas, a prominent blogger who writes at al-Wa’i al-Masri (Egyptian Conscience), was held for several hours at the airport when he was returning from Sweden on June 30, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) reported. ANHRI said that the blogger’s laptop was confiscated and has not been returned since.

In March, CPJ wrote a letter to President Hosni Mubarak to protest Egypt’s campaign of harassment and prosecutions of bloggers. Egypt is among the worst places in the world to be a blogger, according to CPJ’s special report, “10 Worst Countries to be a Blogger.” The report found that Egyptian authorities regularly monitor Web sites and detain critical blogggers.  

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition group, has been officially banned since 1954.