CAIRO — Hundreds of Egyptians have been swept up in a campaign of arrests targeting protesters, as demonstrations against Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi’s rule continue.
The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), a Cairo-based NGO, reported on Sunday that at least 220 people had been arrested since protests began on Friday night.
The organisation said it had set up an “emergency room” to deal with the spike in arrests, and that at least 100 more people were likely to have been detained after protests in Suez, Alexandria and Giza.
Another NGO, the Egyptian Centre for Economic & Social Rights, stated it had recorded at least 274 arrests since the demonstrations began.
“We’re continuing to get cases around the clock,” said Mohamed Lotfy of ECRF. “I think the riot police and the ministry of the interior didn’t expect this size of protests.” ECRF recorded arrests in at least 12 locations, including Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Suez, and towns such as Dakahlia, Qalyubia and Kafr el-Sheikh.
Dozens were reportedly arrested and police responded with tear gas.
The protests – which also took place in Tahrir Square in Cairo on Friday – are in response to corruption allegations against President Sisi’s government.
Mr Sisi has dismissed the allegations as “lies and slander”.
Why are Egyptians protesting?
Protests have been extremely rare under President Sisi, who took power in 2014 after he led the military’s overthrow of Egypt’s first democratically elected president Mohammed Morsi.
But anger has spread since an Egyptian businessman and actor, Mohamed Ali, posted a series of videos online accusing the country’s leader of wasting millions on luxury residences and hotels while millions of Egyptians lived in poverty.
Egypt has pursued a policy of economic austerity in recent years.
Hundreds filled Tahrir Square – a key site of the 2011 Egyptian uprising – late on Friday shouting “Sisi out”, while demonstrations also took place elsewhere around the country.
At least 74 people were arrested, AFP news agency reported. There is no official confirmation.
What happened on Saturday?
Around 200 Egyptians took to the streets in Suez, which had seen protests on Friday, too.
There were clashes, with police firing tear gas and arresting dozens of protesters.
“There were about 200 or so people. They (security forces) fired tear gas, rubber and live bullets and there were injuries,” one man, who took part in the protests but declined to be named, told AFP.
Videos posted on social media show demonstrators calling President Sisi “the enemy of god”.
On Saturday, Mr Ali upped the ante, calling on Egyptians to join a “million-man march” next Friday and to fill all “major squares” of the country.