Political figures arrested over Eid holiday interrogated about political views, affiliations

In interrogations held on Monday and Tuesday, four of the seven political figures arrested over the Eid holiday were questioned about their views on and relationship to prominent political groups and events in Egypt’s post-2011 political landscape.

On Monday, the Supreme State Security Prosecution conducted preliminary interrogations with former ambassador Masoum Marzouk, university professor Yehia al-Qazzaz, economist Raed Salama and activist Nermeen Hussein, all of which will continue next Monday, according to lawyer Khaled Ali.

Activist Sameh Seoudi’s questioning took place on Tuesday, Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) lawyer Ahmed Abdel Latif told Mada Masr on Wednesday. The sessions will be resumed next Saturday.

The two remaining defendants in the case, university professor Abdel Fattah Saeed al-Banna and activist Amr Mohamed, are being interrogated today.

The seven defendants will remain in remand detention pending further investigations.

Egyptian security forces arrested the seven activists and political opposition figures on August 23, the third day of Eid al-Adha. They were subsequently charged with aiding a terrorist organization, receiving funding for terrorist purposes and taking part in a criminal agreement with the intention of committing terrorist crimes — with the exception of Mohamed, who was instead charged with joining a terrorist organization — and made party to Case 1305/2018.

Marzouk, a former ambassador who recently called for a referendum on President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government, was arrested from his home by a large security contingent and led to an unknown location, Ali previously told Mada Masr.

When questioned about his political views during Monday’s interrogation session, Marzouk stated that he holds an anti-Muslim Brotherhood stance and has participated in several initiatives against the now-outlawed group, according to a statement by his lawyer, Omar Haggag.

Haggag vehemently denied any connection between Marzouk and the Brotherhood, pointing to his client’s military, political and diplomatic history and the positions Marzouk has formerly held — included deputy foreign minister and several diplomatic posts — which, the lawyer argued, serve as “conclusive evidence” against any ties with the organization.

Earlier in August, Marzouk put forward a call for a referendum and laid down a roadmap for the transfer of power in the event that the population votes against the government. The suggested roadmap included the suspension of the Constitution and dissolution of Parliament, the transfer of power to a transitional council for a period of three years, throughout which all legislation issued following January 25, 2011 — marking the start of the 2011 revolution — would be revised and succeeded by presidential and parliamentary elections. Marzouk also called for a mass rally in Tahrir Square on Friday, August 31, in the event that the Egyptian government does not respond to “the call.”

During the interrogation, Marzouk asserted that this call was an individual initiative and that none of the other defendants was involved in the proposal. He also stated that the government had missed a “valuable opportunity for dialogue” that his initiative presented, according to his lawyer.

The interrogation also included questions on Marzouk’s views on a number of political issues, Haggag added, including the violent dispersal of the Rabea al-Adaweya sit-in in August 2013, as well as his military and political background.

Haggag told Mada Masr that he also addressed during the interrogation session Marzouk’s allegation that security forces had stolen belongings from his residence during his arrest. Marzouk’s daughter, Maisara, had previously asserted that security forces had taken a large sum of cash intended for her university tuition, stating on her Facebook page that her family plans on taking legal action.

Activist Nermeen Hussein, who was arrested from her house in Maadi, was questioned about her upbringing, her social background and her participation in the January 25 revolution, according to Mohamed Fathy, a lawyer at the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR), who argued that these questions were irrelevant to the case. She was also questioned about several items confiscated from her residence, including a sum of cash, a laptop and a cell phone.

Meanwhile, questions posed to financier, political economy analyst and activist Raed Salama mainly revolved around the circumstances of his arrest, according to his lawyer, Mohamed Fathy. Interrogators asked Salama about items confiscated during the raid on his home — which were not shown to him — including funds, a laptop, flash drives and a briefcase.

Salama, who co-founded the socialist Popular Current Party with Marzouk in 2012 and is a founding member of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, was arrested when he arrived at his apartment to find that police forces had forced their way in, his wife told lawyer Khaled Ali. He was brought before the prosecution on Sunday.

Helwan University geology professor and March 9 Movement member Yehia al-Qazzaz denied all accusations made against him during Monday’s interrogation, and his lawyers refused to answer any questions not directly related to the case — such as his relationship to political activism — according to ANHRI lawyer Amr Imam. When presented with items confiscated from his residence, which included a book on Egypt’s 2011 revolution and several electronic devices, Qazzaz denied any connection to a compilation of Brotherhood-related publications.

Imam requested that his 63-year-old client, who was arrested as he was attending a funeral in the Red Sea city of Qusair, blindfolded and transported to Cairo, a trip that took nearly 10 hours, undergo a medical examination by a prison physician, arguing that Qazzaz’s health had been affected by the circumstances of his arrest and detention conditions.

Qazzaz is an outspoken critic of the government’s policies and was subject to a drove of legal complaints in June, when he was accused of inciting protests and taking part in the “Muslim Brotherhood’s plans.” In 2017, he was investigated by Helwan University for his political commentary following social media posts he had published, a move the March 9 Movement condemned at the time.

Lawyers for all four defendants told Mada Masr that their clients are being subjected to poor detention conditions, having been held in solitary confinement and deprived of their right to physical exercise since they were detained last week.

In his Tuesday interrogation, activist Sameh Seoudi was questioned about his opinion on the government and his political life, including his former membership in the April 6 Youth Movement, as well as the movement’s activities and his reasons for leaving it, ANHRI lawyer Ahmed Abdel Latif told Mada Masr on Wednesday.

In an earlier interrogation that took place the day he was arrested, Seoudi was asked about his social media activity, to which Seoudi responded by stating that he has not insulted any political figures on public platforms. However, during Tuesday’s questioning, interrogators stated that they had printed several posts they had accessed using his account passwords in which Seoudi allegedly made remarks insulting to Egypt’s president and religion, Abdel Latif told Mada Masr.

Seoudi denied being personally acquainted with other defendants in the case, with the exception of Nermeen Hussein, whom he said he only knew through social media, Abdel Latif added.

Interrogators presented Seoudi with several items allegedly confiscated from his residence during his arrest, including a box of posters and stickers part of a campaign against the re-election of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Seoudi denied owning the box and accused security forces of “stealing” LE23,000 in the raid on his home.

Seoudi is being held in poor conditions, his lawyer told Mada Masr, and he has been confined to solitary detention in Tora Prison. He is only allowed to go to the bathroom once a day and has not been able to eat. He has exhibited symptoms of hives, his lawyer added, because he has not been able to change his clothes since he was arrested.

Seoudi, who had formerly been issued a sentence for protesting in 2017, was also arrested on August 23. When police forces did not find him at his house, they detained his wife and two children, Al-Katib chief editor Khaled al-Balshy told Mada Masr at the time, saying that he had spoken to Seoudi directly.

Police forces later arrested Seoudi and transferred him to Zawya al-Hamra Police Station, where his wife and children, who were eventually released, were being held.

The two remaining defendants in the case — archeology professor Abdel Fattah Saeed al-Banna, a former candidate for former Prime Minister Essam Sharaf’s Cabinet who was arrested from his home in Mariouteya, and activist Amr Mohamed, who was arrested from a Cairo shopping mall in the presence of his family — were interrogated on Wednesday, their lawyers told Mada Masr.

*Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that seven figures were arrested over the holiday. It has been amended to reflect the correct number of detainees.

Hadeer El-Mahdawy 

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