Prominent youth pro-democracy activist Ahmed Maher detained in Egypt

 

Egypt's prosecutor general ordered the detention of a prominent youth leader for four days on Friday pending an investigation into accusations he incited anti-government violence.

The detention, the latest case of a pro-democracy activist being held over similar charges, sparked a wave of anger among activists and the April 6 youth movement, which was at the forefront of the country's 2011 uprising, called for nationwide protests, including one in front of President Mohammed Morsi's house.

Meanwhile, Morsi's Islamist Muslim Brotherhood staged an anti-Israel rally, the first of its kind by the group since it rose to prominence in the wake of the revolt that ousted longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

The security official said Ahmed Maher, a leader of April 6, was arrested at the Cairo airport as he returned from a trip to the United States.

According to an official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, Maher is accused of "incitement" for actions at a March demonstration against the country's interior minister, when protesters hurled underwear at the minister's house to oppose a police crackdown on the activist group.

Maher was later taken to a heavily fortified prison in the Egyptian capital, the state-run MENA news agency said. Also late on Friday, clashes broke out in downtown Cairo between rock-throwing protesters and security troops who fired tear gas at the demonstrators. The protesters were trying to bring down a cement wall blocking the entrance of a street leading up to the Interior Ministry building.

Maher's April 6 group was one of Morsi's top allies during his presidential campaign last year against a rival who was a Mubarak-era official the group feared would restore the former regime.

But since Morsi became president last June, April 6, like the rest of the liberal opposition, has been increasingly frustrated with the new government's practices and with what they see as the president serving his Islamist group's agenda in trying to monopolize power in the country.

Days before his arrest, Maher had expressed regret for his group's alliance with Morsi and the Brotherhood.

"Were we mistaken when we defended the Muslim Brotherhood at one point before the revolution and supported the Brotherhood candidate in the face of the military's and old regime's candidate," he wrote on the April 6 group's website.

"Now we are being treated as traitors and our image has been tarnished and we are sent to prisons by those we defended."

A myriad of charges and complaints have been leveled in recent months against activists, journalists and TV personalities, including well-known satirist Bassem Youssef, for insulting Morsi.

Earlier this month, authorities arrested Ahmed Douma, a leading activist, and referred him to court for allegedly insulting the president in a TV interview.

The crackdown comes at a time when Morsi's government is struggling to meet its promises to carry out reforms and improve Egyptians' quality of life. Along with lawlessness and economic woes, the country has witnessed a surge in sectarian tension, with the country's Christian minority increasingly feeling the heat of newly empowered hardline Islamists.

In the most recent example, security forces were put on alert Friday and deployed riot police to a southern village for fear of sectarian violence after a Coptic Christian tailor was killed by unidentified assailants, a security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International called on Egyptian authorities to release 24-year-old Coptic Christian schoolteacher Dimiana Abdel-Nour who is held for contempt of Islam. Abdel-Nour teaches history and geography in a southern village near the famed city of Luxor. She was accused by some students of allegedly showing contempt while talking about Islam in class last month.

Luxor prosecutor issued an arrest warrant against Abdel-Nour this week over allegations of proselytizing and of "defamation of religion." A court is scheduled to look into her detention on Saturday.

Amnesty's Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said it was "outrageous that a teacher finds herself behind bars for teaching a class," adding that if Abdel-Nour had made a "professional mistake or deviated from the curriculum, an internal review would have sufficed."

Back in Cairo, the Brotherhood organized its first anti-Israel rally since it emerged as Egypt's most powerful political force in the wake of the Arab Spring uprising.

After Friday prayers at Al-Azhar mosque, the centuries-old seat of Sunni Muslim learning, demonstrators rallied in the street, chanted "the people want the destruction of Israel," denouncing recent Israeli airstrikes in Syria and the detention of a Palestinian Muslim cleric.

At one point, leading Brotherhood member Mohammed el-Beltagy took the microphone and shouted: "We will repeat it over and over, Israel is our enemy." Others echoed the call, and one organiser whipped up the crowd into a chant urging the army to launch a war against Israel to "liberate Palestine ... from the sons of monkeys and pigs."

Since Mubarak's ouster, the Brotherhood — known for its anti-Israeli and anti-Western rhetoric — has largely avoided showing enmity to the West or its former foe on its eastern border.

Morsi himself has repeatedly stressed commitment to Egypt's peace treaty with Israel, and won US praise by brokering a cease-fire between Palestinian Hamas militants and the Jewish state just months after he assumed his post.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner

£15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

£11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy