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Egypt rights activists decry detention of lawyer, reporter

CAIRO — The detentions of an Egyptian labor lawyer and a journalist raised concerns among rights activists Friday that the military-backed government’s crackdown on Islamists is expanding to silence other critics of its policies.

Authorities have been carrying out a wave of arrests for weeks against Islamist backers of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, who was removed in a July 3 coup. Still, his supporters have pushed ahead with protests organized by his Muslim Brotherhood denouncing the military and demanding Morsi’s return to office.

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In the latest rallies, thousands of demonstrators flowed from mosques Friday, chanting “down with military rule” and waving Egyptian flags.

Authorities have depicted the crackdown against Islamists as part of a “fight against terror.” At least 2,000 Brotherhood members have been arrested, most on allegations of inciting violence.

A low-intensity militant insurgency has hit the Sinai peninsula and other areas in the south, where Islamist radicals have a strong base. A failed attempt to assassinate the interior minister Thursday with a car bomb raised fears of an escalating Islamic militant campaign of revenge over the coup.

Along with the arrests, there has also been a blanket of intimidation against criticism from within the non-Islamist camp against military actions.

Officials urge the public to unite in the face of a terror threat. Rights lawyer Gamal Eid noted how pro-military television stations and other media smear critics of the crackdown, branding them as a “fifth column” for the Brotherhood. Private citizens have filed legal suits against activists, accusing them of serving foreign agendas or espionage.

The detentions of labor lawyer Haitham Mohammadain and journalist Ahmed Abu-Draa raised further alarm among activists.

Mohammadain was detained Thursday at a checkpoint in the port city of Suez. He belongs to the Revolutionary Socialists, a well-known leftist group that took part in the 2011 uprising against autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak and protests against Morsi and is now critical of the military.

Mohammadain has yet to be charged or questioned.

Journalist Abu-Draa, who reports from the volatile northern Sinai, has been under arrest since Wednesday, a military official said. He faces investigation on allegations of publishing wrong information about an ongoing security operation, taking photos of military installations without a permit, and spreading rumors about the armed forces.

Few journalists have direct access to events in Sinai.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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