Egyptian authorities arrested a leading activist from Warraq Island on Sunday as part of a broader crackdown on the island’s residents, who have been engaged in a long-running battle over government plans to expropriate land for a contentious redevelopment project.
Nasser Abul Enein, a Warraq resident and member of the island’s Family Council, was detained in Cairo International Airport early Sunday morning after returning from hajj, according to Hussein Zeidan, also a member of the Family Council. Airport security turned Abul Enein over to the Warraq police station, which in turn referred him to the Warraq prosecution office, Zeidan said. On Monday, the Warraq prosecution office ordered Abul Enein to be detained for 15 days.
Abul Enein’s arrest came on the heels of an arrest warrant issued against 25 of the island’s residents in Case 4907/2018 on charges of organizing demonstrations without prior notice.
That case is just the latest in a series of cases filed against the residents of Warraq.
The Emergency State Security Misdemeanor Court is scheduled to hold a hearing on September 14 in a case in which 22 Warraq residents stand accused of inciting demonstrations and resisting authorities. Meanwhile, another 35 residents of the island have been accused in yet another case that will go to court on September 21 on charges of illegally demonstrating and assaulting police officers.
Mada Masr previously reported on the arrest of three Warraq Island activists in a sting operation in March, which authorities used to put pressure on Warraq residents to make concessions. According to the source, government officials called on the residents of Warraq to finalize a comprehensive deal for the island as part of negotiations to release the three men.
The Warraq Island crisis began in June 2017 when, in a speech about reclaiming public land infringed upon by construction, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stated that havoc had spread on the island, with “people building 50,000 houses on public land.”
A month later, police forces, accompanied by officials from the ministries of endowments, irrigation and agriculture, raided the island to demolish 700 buildings, according to a statement issued by the Interior Ministry at the time. Clashes erupted between security forces and residents protesting the demolitions. One person was killed and 19 were injured, according to Health Ministry statements. Thirty-seven police personnel were injured, the Ministry of Interior said, and 10 islanders were arrested.
The government issued several decrees allocating jurisdiction over land on the island to the New Urban Communities Authority, and prohibiting landowners from selling properties on the island to any party other than the authority. The decrees have all been appealed by the island’s inhabitants in court.
Over the years, island residents have adopted various grassroots tactics to resist the government crackdown, including holding weekly demonstrations, blocking access to the island’s ferry port to prevent the entry of construction equipment, organizing rallies, using media tactics to counter government defamation campaigns, and forming a Family Council to represent the island’s residents.