Sunday, November 15, 2009

Egyptian blogger, activist kidnapped, beaten during Egypt-Algeria match

CAIRO - November 15th, 2009: Kareem el-Shae’r, an Egyptian blogger and political activist, was found beaten, injured and covered with his own blood in New Cairo one hour after the end of the Algeria-Egypt soccer match on Saturday night. El-Shae’r was then taken to el-Salam hospital by local citizens until his wife came to take him home.

According to the blogger’s friends who contacted him later, he is “very ill and has serious injuries and bruises all over his body.” It is unclear what pretext was given for kidnapping the young man and leaving him in New Cairo, some 30 minutes from Nasr City.

Egyptian police in recent years have used similar tactics of kidnapping and beatings in an effort to silence critics of the government. A number of leading opposition figures have been taken from the street by police, beaten and left on the side of the road outside the capital, much like el-Shae’r.

On Saturday, emotions were high across Egypt as the national team was playing Algeria in a World Cup qualifier that would determine which nation would make it to South Africa next June for the World Cup Finals. Egypt eventually won the match 2-0 to force a play-off Wednesday in Sudan.

El-Shae’r is the moderator of Masr el-Horra (Free Egypt) blog. He has been arrested several times for short periods in recent years over his political activities. The worst of them was when he was arrested and physically assaulted during the protests calling for judicial independence in 2006.

He is also a member of the el-Ghad Party and April 6 Youth movement. On November 4th, he established “Youth against Presidential Succession,” a new youth campaign inspired by the larger national “Egyptian Campaign against Succession” founded by opposition leader Ayman Nour last month.

Eight hours before the historic football match between Egypt and Algeria that attracted the attention of all Egyptians, Ahmed Maher, head of April 6 Movement spread the news that “members of April 6 were arrested and Kareem El-Shae’r disappeared.” Two hours later, Medhat Shaker, another political activist and friend of el-Shae’r, stated that “Kareem was kidnapped from outside Nasr City Police Station where Mohamed Mostafa [another member of April 6] was being held in custody.”

One hour after the match, news spread on the walls of El-Ghad Party members’ Facebook pages about El-Shae’r being “beaten and thrown from a police truck in New Cairo” and other news about “locking El-Ghad Party members up by security forces in their headquarter of Talaat Harb street, after the match!”

Apparently, the security forces used the opportunity of the match’s hype to attack young activists, who were busy with watching the match. A number of activists said security was using the match “to take revenge of young activists like Kareem and other members of El-Ghad Party and April 6 Youth movement.”

The interior ministry would not comment on el-Shae’r’s case, saying they had not heard of anything related to this person.

**reporting by Dalia Ziada (first published on Bikya Masr)