The New Cairo courthouse ruled on Monday to extend the imprisonment of three 6 April Youth Movement members and a fourth unaffiliated civilian by 15 days pending investigations. A protest in solidarity with the four prisoners was held in front of the New Cairo courthouse on Monday, while another protest in front of the Shura Council was violently dispersed by security forces.
According to the movement’s spokesperson, Khaled El-Masry, supporters of the movement and of the detained camped out in front of the courthouse. “Our lawyers are already there making sure that our members are fairly represented,” El-Masry said.
The movement’s event page for the protest garnered hundreds of attendees and according to Mohamed Adel, a founding member of the movement, roughly 200 people made their presence known outside the court.
The three prisoners, Mohamed Mostafa Youssef, Mamdouh Hassan Mamdouh and Abdelazeem Abdo, were arrested alongside a fourth person unaffiliated with the group on 29 March in Nasr City, during a protest outside the home of the Minister of Interior.
The detainees are held in Al-Aqrab prison, a high-security prison housing criminals deemed extremely dangerous to society. The four prisoners embarked on a hunger strike to protest the conditions of their detainment but as of Saturday ended the hunger strike after authorities promised to improve the quality of their treatment in prison, El-Masry said.
Adel said that the prisoners were not allowed to receive visits from their wives and were each kept in separate cells.
On Sunday the movement called for a sit-in front of the Shura Council, but the sit-in was dispersed early on Monday by security forces. In response, the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR) demanded an investigation be launched into the way in which security forces dealt with the protesters.
In a statement published on Tuesday EOHR said it is deeply concerned by the excessive force used to disperse the protesters. The statement said the security forces’ use of excessive force against demonstrators, and the government’s desire to pass a protest law which essentially eliminates the right to peaceful assembly and expression, will lead to frustration and anger on the part of the people.
Hafez Abuseada, the head of EOHR, said that there are attempts by the state “to eliminate the right to peaceful protest and the current regime is seeking to bury this right in order to eliminate any opposition to it in the future”.
Abuseada said it would be difficult to silence dissent because millions of people took part in the 2011 revolution in order to reclaim their political, social and economic rights. “Therefore, it is difficult to satisfy the opposition without democracy and the foundations and principles of good governance,” he said.
Abuseada also stressed that arbitrary arrests of political activists and journalists will not contribute to achieving democracy in Egypt.
EOHR demanded in its closing statement that an investigation be launched into the circumstances surrounding the hunger strike started by the prisoners, as well as the circumstances surrounding the violent crackdown on the 6 April protest outside the Shura Council. EOHR also demanded the release of all political prisoners, including the 6 April members, and an end to arresting activists for their political opinions.