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Viewing cable 09CAIRO255, GOE RELEASES EGYPTIAN-GERMAN BLOGGER, CRACKS DOWN

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09CAIRO255 2009-02-11 14:02 2011-02-16 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Cairo
VZCZCXRO8633
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHEG #0255 0421443
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 111443Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1616
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0291
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L CAIRO 000255 
 
SIPDIS 
 
FOR NEA/ELA AND DRL/NESCA 
SNC FOR PASCUAL AND KUCHTA-HELBLING 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/11/2029 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KDEM GE EG
SUBJECT: GOE RELEASES EGYPTIAN-GERMAN BLOGGER, CRACKS DOWN 
ON OTHER GAZA ACTIVISTS REF: CAIRO 229 Classified By: ECPO Mincouns William R. Stewart for reason 1.4 (d).
1.(C) Summary and comment: On February 11, Egyptian State Security (SSIS) released blogger and activist Philip Rizk following his arrest on February 6 (reftel). The German Embassy CG confirmed the release. Rizk's lawyer told us SSIS subjected Rizk to "physical and mental abuse" in custody. While Rizk's release is a welcome development, the GOE is clearly cracking down on pro-Palestinian activists, especially those who embarrass the regime by crossing illegally into Gaza. On February 10 and 11, military courts sentenced the Labor Party secretary-general and two other activists to prison terms for crossing into Gaza illegally. On February 6, SSIS detained pro-Palestinian blogger Dia Eddin Gad. The GOE is sending a strong intimidating message to Gaza-focused activists that its tolerance for criticism on Gaza has greatly diminished. End summary and comment.

2.(C) Human rights lawyer Gamal Eid who represents Egyptian-German student, blogger and activist Philip Rizk told us that SSIS released Rizk from custody in the early morning of February 11. Eid said that there are no charges pending against Rizk. According to Eid, SSIS subjected Rizk to physical and psychological abuse while in custody, including "physical assault and blindfolding." Eid said that Rizk recounted how SSIS officers accused him of "serious crimes" and attempted to obtain some of his computer passwords. Egyptian Organization for Human Rights Secretary-General Hafez Abu Seada speculated to us that Rizk's German citizenship and the international media attention surrounding the case made it difficult for the GOE to detain Rizk for more than a few days.

3.(C) Eid confirmed for us on February 11 that SSIS detained Egyptian blogger Dia' Eddin Gad on February 6. Gad is the author of the blog entitled "An Angry Voice" (soutgadeb.blogspot.com), which recently described President Mubarak as a "Zionist, an agent for Israel and a loser." Gad focuses his blogging on Palestinian issues and was evidently detained for brief periods in December and January for participating in Gaza-related demonstrations.

4.(U) On February 10, a military court sentenced pro-Palestinian activists Ahmed Saad Abu Doma and Ahmed Kamal Abdelal to one year prison terms and fined them each LE 2000 (350 USD) for crossing illegally into Gaza. Police reportedly arrested the two on February 4 while they were returning to Egypt from Gaza through a smuggling tunnel. During the Gaza war, Abu Doma and Abdelal began constructing the website "Ghadeboon" (The Angry Ones), which expresses solidarity with the people of Gaza and criticism of the GOE for not preventing the Israeli operations.

5.(U) On February 11, a military court sentenced Labor Party secretary-general Magdy Hussein to two years in prison and fined him LE 5000 (800 USD) for illegally crossing into Gaza, allegedly through a smuggling tunnel in early February. The press reported Hussein tried to re-enter Egypt through the Rafah border crossing. The Labor Party is a defunct Islamist party that the GOE "froze" in 2000 (i.e. prevented from functioning as a political party). Local human rights organizations issued statements February 11 condemning the verdict.

6.(C) Comment: While the release of Philip Rizk is a welcome development, the GOE is clearly cracking down on pro-Palestinian activists. The relatively harsh military court sentences against Labor Party SG Hussein and the two activists for crossing into Gaza reflect the GOE's special sensitivity to sovereignty and border control issues. The GOE probably viewed the activists' illegal crossing into Gaza as a political embarrassment at a time when the government is trying to demonstrate its determination to exercise control over the Gaza border. Through these sentences and detentions, the GOE is sending a strong intimidating message to Gaza-focused activists that its tolerance for criticism on Gaza has greatly diminished. SCOBEY