Famous Egyptian blogger arrested in widening crackdown on dissent

Wael Abbas alerted his followers on his Facebook account that he was being detained

Wael Abbas alerted his followers on his Facebook account that he was being detained

Egyptian security forces detained prominent blogger and journalist Wael Abbas on Wednesday, two security sources and his lawyer said, the latest activist to be arrested in what rights groups say is a campaign to silence government critics.

Abbas is an internationally-renowned activist who writes on a number of issues in Egypt, including the state use of torture and corruption.

"Egyptian authorities are degrading themselves in the eyes of the worldwide community by rounding up all of the country's independent media", said CPJ Advocacy Director Courtney Radsch from Washington D.C. "Egypt should free Wael Abbas immediately and halt its frenzied attack against journalists".

"I am being arrested", Wael Abbas posted on Facebook at 4.20am as he became the latest Egyptian activist swept up by a wave of arrests in recent weeks.

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Abbas is known for his strongly worded, anti-governmental stances and his role in documenting and reporting the 2011 uprising against former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. None of his friends and acquaintances know his whereabouts, prompting them to launch a hashtag to show their support: #وائل_عباس_فين.

The Egyptian government's crackdowns on reporters, political activists, and social reformers have drawn condemnation from worldwide human rights organizations and western governments.

His Twitter account was suspended in December 2017.

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said police raided the home of Wael Abbas's family at dawn Wednesday without an arrest warrant and took away the journalist and blogger, blindfolded. His Twitter account remains suspended although the reasons are unclear.

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Commenting on the news, Sophie Amnuth, director of Middle East desk at RSF said, "Although it is not clear who was behind these moves [the suspension of his Twitter account], they appear to have been politically motivated".

Amnesty International called it "the most brazen attack on the media" in Egypt in decades. Thousands of people have been jailed, unauthorized protests have been banned and hundreds of websites, including many run by independent journalists and rights activists, have been blocked.

On Tuesday a court sentenced journalist and researcher Ismail al-Iskandarani to 10 years in prison on charges of publishing false news and military secrets for his work on an ongoing army campaign against militants in the Sinai Peninsula, his lawyer said.

Mr Alexandrani, an expert on jihadism, was detained in November 2015 and has been kept in pre-trial detention since then, according to Human Rights Watch.

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