Mahalla strike in Egypt

Bloggers and satellite TV harangued

20th May

Factory Strike, Truncheon Strike and Hunger Strike...

Egyptian blogger on hunger strike

Reporters Without Borders calls on the Egyptian authorities to free Kareem El-Beheiri, a blogger who was arrested on 6 April in the industrial town of Mahalla (100 km north of Cairo) while covering a strike in the textile plant where he worked. He has been held in Borg El Arab prison since April.

We are worried about Beheiri'
s health as he is being mistreated and has gone on hunger strike,
the press freedom organisation said. The prison'
s management refuses to move him to the hospital so that he can receive appropriate treatment. We call on the authorities to release him while they decide exactly what charges they are going to bring against him.

Beheiri and two other activists who were arrested the same day, Tareq Amin and Kamal el-Fayyoumy, described their mistreatment in a joint letter on 18 May to Zakareya Abdel Aziz, the head of the Cairo Judges Club. We were tortured at state security headquarters in Mahalla on 6, 7 and 8 April, the letter said: Policemen administered electric shocks to Kareem and insulted and beat Tareq Amin and Kamal El-Fayyoumy.

Since his arrest, Beheiri has been fired from his job on the grounds of absenteeism, although his employers have received documents confirming that he is being detained. The authorities accuse him of encouraging the strike on his blog, in which he referred to the actions being organised by Egyptian workers in protest against their poor living standards.

In his last blog entry, Beheiri wrote: It is now 7 a.m. on 6 April, and I am going to Mahalla to cover the factory strike. Pray for me and I hope that everyone will succeed in demonstrating the flaws in the Egyptian regime. Kareem El-Beheiri, for a free country, that of Egyptian revolutionaries.

The 6 April strike in protest against increases in the prices of basic staples was observed by several thousand people in Cairo and Mahalla. A “6 April” group on the social-networking website Facebook urging Egyptians to protest by all possible means had attracted 64,000 members by the eve of the protest.

Esraa Abdel Fattah Ahmed was detained for more than two weeks for being a member of this group. Its organiser, 27-year-old engineer Ahmed Maher, was beaten by the Mahalla police for 12 hours to get him to give the password to the Facebook group and the real names of its members. Facebook cancelled his account because it thought all the messages he was sending to members of the “6 April” group were spam.

This strike organised on the Internet was unprecedented for the authorities, who did not know who to blame it on, Reporters Without Borders said: We condemn the fact that people have been detained for several weeks just for using their right to free expression.

Update: Police Thugs

23rd May 2008


Ahmed after police interview

Egyptian authorities should immediately investigate and prosecute those security officials responsible for beating Ahmed Maher Ibrahim, Human Rights Watch said. Maher used the social-networking site Facebook to support calls for a general strike on May 4, 2008.

Maher told Human Rights Watch that officers from the Interior Ministry'
s State Security Investigations (SSI) department apprehended him on a street in the suburb of New Cairo on May 7, blindfolded him and took him to a police station where they stripped him naked, and beat him intermittently for 12 hours before releasing him without charge.

This is the work of thugs, pure and simple, said Joe Stork, Middle East deputy director at Human Rights Watch: The government must show that those responsible for upholding the law are also subject to the law.

Update: Released

3rd June 2008

Egyptian blogger Kareem El Beheiry has been released yesterday from prison.


26th May

Update: Strike Against Press Freedom...

Satellite TV company on trial for coverage of police violence at Egyptian factory strike

Nader Gohar has been in the business of broadcasting for the past 25 years, but he is now standing trial for importing and owning television equipment and transmitting broadcasts without permission.

At least that is the official line.

In reality, Gohar is on trial for broadcasting the Mahalla al Kobra protests on April 6, including footage of protesters tearing down and defacing a large poster of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president.

The following day, the head of the board of the Radio and Television Union filed a complaint with Egypt'
s prosecutor general, alleging that Gohar'
s Cairo News Company (CNC) – which provides satellite broadcast services and equipment to such television networks as Al Jazeera, BBC and CNN – had been operating without the required permits.

On April 17, 35 plainclothes police officers raided CNC'
s Cairo offices, confiscating its five sets of satellite transmission equipment, effectively shutting it down.

The date of the strike, April 6, was originally set by factory workers in Mahalla al Kobra, 120km north of Cairo, who were protesting against high food prices, low wages and widespread poverty.

Clashes erupted and continued until the following day and police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters, killing at least two and wounding about 100. More than 300 people were arrested. Footage of the violence sent tremors through Egyptian society.


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