Police Arrest Hundreds During Egypt Protests, Lawyers Say

Regime attempts to nip protests in the bud, as viral videos send Egyptians to the streets

Small groups of protesters gather in central Cairo shouting anti-government slogans, September 21, 2019

Egyptian security forces rounded up hundreds of people following small but rare anti-government protests, rights lawyers said Monday.

The protests broke out in several Egyptian cities including the capital, Cairo, over the weekend, calling for President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to step down.

All protests were quickly broken up by police. But they marked a startling eruption of street unrest, which has been almost completely silenced the past years by draconian measures imposed under el-Sissi.

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On Monday, lawyers Malek Adly and Khaled el-Masry said security forces had arrested at least 400 people in Cairo and elsewhere across the country.

A protester carries a sign that reads "Don't be afraid ..say .. Sissi must leave" while protesters gather in central Cairo shouting anti-government slogans, September 21, 2019.

El-Masry says prosecutors have questioned at least 220 people, over claims that they took part in activities of an outlawed group, a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood group, and disseminating false news.

The new protests emerge from an online campaign, led by an Egyptian businessman living in self-imposed exile who has presented himself as a whistleblower against corruption. His calls for demonstrations come at a time when Egypt's lower and middle classes have been badly squeezed by years of economic reforms and austerity measures.

The businessman, Mohammed Ali, has put out a series of viral videos claiming corruption by the military and government. His videos inspired others — often wearing masks to hide their identity — to post their own videos relating experiences with alleged corruption or mismanagement.

Combination of pictures created on September 22, 2019 shows confrontations between Egyptian security forces and protesters in al-Arbaeen Square in Suez.