Egyptian security services on Wednesday released political activist Shadi al-Ghazali Harb roughly 30 hours after his initial arrest.
Harb, a doctor at Cairo's Kasr al-Eini medical school, had been picked up by security personnel at Cairo International Airport on Tuesday before boarding a scheduled flight to London, where he had planned to take a fellowship exam at a British university.
He remained blindfolded throughout his detention period, he said, during which he was questioned about his political activities. He had been unaware as to which security apparatus was conducting the interrogations.
His detention drew angry reactions on both the local and international levels. The London branch of the pro-reform National Association for Change (NAC) announced it would stage a vigil before the Egyptian embassy to demand his release, while pro-democracy NGO Freedom House issued a statement from Washington describing his detention as "an act targeting all democracy activists in Egypt."
“Harb is an activist who believes in peaceful change,” said NAC London Branch Director Salah Abul Fadl. “We were concerned about his disappearance, particularly in light of the fact that the airport authorities were at a loss to explain the incident.”
Abul Fadl posed the question as to who, other than the official state security services, had the power to arrest citizens at random. “Isn’t Egypt's emergency law enough for the regime to control society and cow the opposition?" he asked.
Freedom House also criticized the the Egyptian authorities for recently banning the entry of one of its officials into the country, in reference to Samir al-Garrah, a Jordanian national that had been scheduled to meet with Egyptian government bodies and NGOs.
“Egypt should live up to its human rights commitments,” said Freedom House official Paula Schriefer. “Egypt is classified in the 2010 'Freedom in the World Survey' as a country that is not free.”
At a Wednesday press conference, Harb’s uncle, Osama al-Ghazali Harb, who is also president of the opposition Democratic Front Party (DFP), condemned the regime for arresting young members of his party. He attributed the arrest of his nephew to the latter's vocal opposition to the anticipated nomination of Gamal Mubarak, son of President Hosni Mubarak, to run in next year's presidential elections.
“Shadi has been the third DFP member to be arrested,” Harb said, pointing to party members Amr Salah Eddin and Ahmed Eid, who were recently detained separately at unknown locations for 24 hours. “Arresting people and keeping them blindfolded in secret places means the country is being ruled by an unknown power, a mob.”
“It's a clear message to young people to stay out of politics,” he added, asserting that Egypt's ruling regime sought to intimidate the opposition in general–and his party in particular–by such acts.
At the press conference, Harb said he planned to file a complaint with the attorney-general over the incident and raise the issue on the international level.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.