Text size

Egyptian police have arrested the publisher of a book about former UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei and his calls for political change in Egypt ahead of elections this year and next, a security source said.

ElBaradei, who returned to Egypt in February after 12 years as head of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has said he would consider running for president if certain conditions were met.

Ahmed Mahanna, head of Dawan publishing house, was arrested on Saturday, the source said.

ElBaradei, in a twitter statement, said: "The detention of a publisher of a book about me and my ideas of reform shows a repressive regime afraid of its own shadow."

The book "ElBaradei and the Dream of the Green Revolution" was written by Egyptian journalist Kamal Gabrayal, who also works in the state-run Roze al-Yusef publishing house, which publishes a daily newspaper and a weekly magazine.

"Officials from national security attacked the house at 1:00 a.m. and my son was not there so they called him from his mother's mobile phone and told him to return. They said: 'we want you and are waiting for you at home'," independent newspaper al-Shorouk quoted Mahanna's father as saying on Sunday.

ElBaradei has called for a new constitution with checks on power, guarantees of a fair vote and better respect for human rights. He has begun an on-the-road campaign to petition for reforms, attending Friday Muslim prayers in Cairo and travelling to Mansoura, a provincial capital in the Nile Delta.

Analysts have said ElBaradei's call for change is unlikely to force reform to the constitution, which makes it nearly impossible for any person to run for the presidency against the ruling party, headed by President Hosni Mubarak, 81, who has ruled Egypt for almost 30 years.

Other analysts, however, have pointed to ElBaradei's use of the media and public appearances, such as attending the Coptic Easter festival on Saturday, which have brought him face to face with senior government officials.

"ElBaradei's presence at the Coptic Easter festival showed his political intelligence," Nader Shukri, an expert on Coptic affairs in Egypt, told Reuters.

His attendance was well received by Copts in Egypt, Shukri said. A Facebook group has been set up by Egyptian Copts to promote ElBaradei as president.

A supporter of ElBaradei and former senior judge, Mahmoud El-Khoudairy, told Reuters some weeks ago the government would detain ElBaradei's supporters to pressure him to abandon his political platform.

"The government might not be able to do anything to ElBaradei due to his current popularity and that the whole world knows him, but they can simply arrest his supporters and without his supporters, what will he do? Nothing," he said.

A parliamentary election is expected in December followed by the presidential election next year.