Egypt releases 400 people arrested in rare anti-government protests

Egypt released on Tuesday over 400 people arrested in September for taking part in rare, nationwide protests that called for the toppling of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a judicial source said.

A Giza terrorism court “ordered the release of 416 suspects accused of participating in the September 20 demonstrations, but their release remains conditional,” according to the source.

Human rights lawyers have said around 2,000 people were taken into custody for participating in small-scale demonstrations that broke out in late September in rural and low-income areas throughout Egypt, including in the outskirts of the capital Cairo.

Amnesty International said security forces had killed at least two people during the demonstrations and called for an investigation in a statement in October.

On September 27, Egypt’s public prosecutor said it ordered the release of 68 minors who took part in “riots”.

Videos of the brief protests were widely shared on social media, with trending hashtags demanding the removal of Sisi, especially by sympathisers of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood movement.

The calls for demonstrations were also stoked by exiled businessman Mohamed Ali, based in Spain, who emerged as a vocal critic of Sisi last year.

Protests have been effectively banned in Egypt since 2013, following the military ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

An ongoing crackdown since Morsi’s removal has swept up thousands of Islamists as well as secular activists, lawyers, journalists, social media influencers and academics.

A renewable state of emergency has been in place in Egypt since 2017, a measure that rights groups say has allowed the government to crush dissent.

Sisi has repeatedly warned against attempts to stoke instability in the country in speeches given at the openings of infrastructure projects trumpeted as part of a national reform plan.