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Virginie Nguyen

Update: Masr al-Arabia managing editor released, activists charged with calling for overthrow of regime

Ahmed Abdel Gawad, managing editor of privately owned news site Masr al-Arabia, was released from detention on Friday, one day after his arrest during a raid by the Office of Artistic Products Police Department, according to a statement on the publication's website.

In releasing Gawad, the prosecution also dismissed as unfounded the allegations that lead to the raid on the publication's offices on Thursday.

The statement said that the prosecution had determined that the allegations made against Masr al-Arabia by the Office of Artistic Products Police Department were without legal basis, closing investigations into the matter.

During Thursday’s raid in Cairo, security forces seized eight computers and unpublished several of the website’s top news stories, saying the articles threatened national security.

Meanwhile, the prosecution continued its interrogations on Friday with activist Taher Mokhtar and his housemates who were arrested in a raid on their house on Thursday.

Security forces arrested doctor and activist Taher Mokhtar on Thursday after raiding and searching his downtown Cairo home, lawyer Mokhtar Mounir told Mada Masr.

Mounir said personnel from the Qasr al-Nil Police Station and National Security Agency searched Mokhtar’s home before arresting him, his two housemates Ahmed Hassan and Ahmed Hossam, and the building's doorman.

Lawyer Mohamed al-Taher with the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) told Mada Masr on Friday that the prosecution has charged Mokhtar and his housemates with possession of printed material that calls for the overthrow of the regime. Taher says that the arrest was a result of a report by National Security officials on Wednesday accusing the three of taking advantage of individual incidents by police to call for people to protest on January 25.

The police confiscated the suspects’ telephones and laptops in addition to printed materials that called for the reform of the health system and contained protest slogans such as “peaceful” and “military coup.”

The Office of Artistic Products Police Department appears to have launched a campaign against allegedly subversive activities in recent weeks, raiding several venues, such as downtown Cairo contemporary art gallery Townhouse and its theater, Rawabet. Studio Emad Eddin for performing arts received a surprise inspection on Tuesday.

Security has been tight in the lead-up to the fifth anniversary of the January 25 revolution. At the end of December, security forces arrested a group of political activists including Mohamed Nabil, Sherif Ali, Ayman Osama, Mahmoud Hashem and Sherif al-Rouby, all members of the banned April 6 Youth Movement. 

The detainees are charged with belonging to an outlawed group, protesting illegally and calling for illegal protests. Activist Khaled al-Sayed was referred to military trial for a number of additional charges, including belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood and participating in the murder of police officer Wael Tahoun. 

Also on Thursday, poet Omar Hazek was briefly held at the Cairo International Airport when he attempted to embark on a flight to the Netherlands, where he was scheduled to receive an award for freedom of speech. He was held by the airport authorities from 7:30 am until 1 pm, and was told that he was banned from travel due to security concerns, reported the Freedom for the Brave Facebook page. Hazek was later allowed to leave the airport with his passport and belongings.

Hazek spent a year and a half in jail for protesting during the trial of the police officers accused of killing Khaled Saeed, the same case in which prominent Alexandrian activist Mahienour al-Massry was sentenced to prison. He received a presidential pardon last September and was released from prison before finishing his two-year term.