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Viewing cable 09CAIRO229, STATE SECURITY DETAINS EGYPTIAN-GERMAN BLOGGER AND GAZA ACTIVIST REF: A. 09 CAIRO 79 B. 08 CAIRO 2431 C. 08 CAIRO 862 D. 08 CAIRO 797 Classified By: ECPO Mincouns William R. Stewart for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09CAIRO229 2009-02-09 15:03 2011-02-16 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Cairo
VZCZCXRO6404
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHEG #0229/01 0401529
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 091529Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1583
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0289
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 000229 
 
SIPDIS 
 
FOR NEA/ELA, DRL/NESCA AND EUR/AGS 
NSC FOR PASCUAL AND KUCHTA-HELBLING 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/09/2029 
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KDEM KPAL GE EG
SUBJECT: STATE SECURITY DETAINS EGYPTIAN-GERMAN BLOGGER AND GAZA ACTIVIST REF: A. 09 CAIRO 79 B. 08 CAIRO 2431 C. 08 CAIRO 862 D. 08 CAIRO 797 Classified By: ECPO Mincouns William R. Stewart for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1.(C) Summary and comment: Egyptian State Security (SSIS) arrested Egyptian-German student, blogger, film-maker and pro-Palestinian activist Philip Rizk February 6 following a small rally in Ismailia calling for opening the Rafah border crossing with Gaza. Rizk's sister told embassy contacts that prior to the arrest, SSIS urged Rizk to stop his pro-Palestinian political activism and film-making. SSIS continues to hold Rizk, and raided his family's home in the early morning hours of February 9, apparently with the Interior Minister's personal approval, to search for evidence against Rizk. The German Embassy has formally requested information about the arrest and consular access, which SSIS has thus far ignored. The Germans told us they have not approached the MFA, and prefer to deal directly with SSIS. The Germans have strongly urged us not to raise the case with the GOE because they fear that heightening the issue's political profile would jeopardize Rizk's release. SSIS' arrest of Rizk may stem from the GOE's fear that Rizk and other educated, tech-savvy activists have the capability to publicly embarrass and challenge the government. End summary and comment.

2.(C) Human rights lawyer Gamal Eid confirmed for us that SSIS detained Egyptian-German blogger, film-maker, American University in Cairo (AUC) masters graduate student and pro-Palestinian activist Philip Rizk the evening of February 6 near Ismailia. An AUC professor who taught Rizk in the past told us that he had been in touch with Rizk's sister February 7 who noted that SSIS arrested Rizk after threatening him by phone to desist from his pro-Palestinian activism and film-making. Rizk's sister informed another AUC professor that SSIS intensified its threats following the screening of one of Rizk's pro-Palestinian films at a Cairo church a few weeks ago. Recent posts on Rizk's pro-Palestinian English-language Gaza blog, tabulagaza.blogspot.com, describe Palestinian suffering in Gaza and criticize Arab governments for not preventing the recent Israeli strikes on Gaza. An AUC professor told us that Rizk has visited Gaza in the past, and the local press and bloggers have reported that Rizk lived in Gaza for two years. AUC is organizing protests on Rizk's behalf, and his supporters have set up a "Free Philip Rizk" website (philiprizk.org).

3.(C) The German Embassy Consul General told us that police initially detained Rizk the evening of February 6 near Ismailia as part of a group of about 15 pro-Palestinian activists who held a small rally in that city holding placards calling for the GOE to open the Rafah crossing. The German CG said he understood that police subsequently released the other members of the group, but that SSIS seized Rizk and drove him away in an unmarked van. The CG referred us to the blog (allthegoodnameshadgone.blogspot.com) of "Egypt Daily News" journalist Sarah Carr, an apparent dual Egyptian-UK national who was one of the 15 initially arrested with Rizk. Carr's blog describes how police and SSIS officers held the group in a police station near Ismailia for several hours before releasing all of them except for Rizk. The German CG told us that his SSIS contact privately denied any knowledge of Rizk's arrest. The German Embassy has sent a letter to SSIS, requesting consular access and the details of Rizk's whereabouts, but the CG told us the embassy has "low expectations" for any SSIS cooperation. The CG said the GOE views Rizk "first and foremost" as an Egyptian citizen.

4.(C) Lawyer Gamal Eid and the German CG told us that SSIS entered the Rizk family home in Cairo at 1 AM the morning of February 9 to "search for evidence." The German CG who was present during the raid told us that SSIS rifled through the papers of Rizk's father, and requested that the father accompany them "for just one hour" to the SSIS office in the Cairo suburb of Ma'adi where, according to SSIS, Philip Rizk is being held. According to the CG, Rizk's father refused to leave with SSIS, following legal advice from Gamal Eid. Attorney Eid told us that he insisted SSIS stop their search of the home and leave the premises when they were unable to produce a search warrant. The German CG noted that he was in touch with his SSIS contact throughout the incident, and this contact stressed that Interior Minister Adly personally CAIRO 00000229 002 OF 002 approved the SSIS search of the Rizk home. The German CG said the raid lasted from about 1 AM to 5 AM. The German DCM strongly urged us not to raise the case with the MFA, explaining that the Germans fear that raising the issue's political profile would jeopardize Rizk's release.

5.(C) Comment: The early morning raid of the Rizk family home is a troubling development that indicates the GOE may be intending to hold Rizk for longer than a few days. After SSIS arrested Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated "April 6 Movement" blogger Mohammed Adel in November 2008 (refs A and B), they raided his home to seize evidence. Adel remains in detention. The GOE may deem Rizk to be a threat because his film-making and blogging publicly challenges the GOE, and because he has shown an inclination to try to mobilize activists against GOE Gaza policy. The GOE may fear being increasingly challenged and embarrassed in the future by Rizk's cadre of educated, politically committed, technologically-savvy activists, and is using his arrest as a tool to deter them from continuing their blogging and rallies. The government probably used the arrests of "April 6" affiliated activists Israa Abdel Fattah in April 2008 (ref D), Mohammed Adel in November 2008 (ref B), and the alleged abuse of another "April 6" member in November 2008 (ref B) to try to frighten other "April 6" members into ceasing their activities. SCOBEY