Egyptian academics, politician among 10 held for anti-state activities

Arrests follow rare anti-government protests in several cities last Friday

(FILES) In this file photo, Egyptian journalist Khaled Dawoud speaks during a press conference on the Egyptian opposition ahead of the March 2018 presidential elections, in Cairo on January 30, 2018. Egyptian authorities have arrested more than 1,000 people, rights groups said on, broadening a crackdown launched after rare protests calling for the ouster of general-turned-President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. High profile dissidents have also since been detained, including Khaled Dawoud, a former leader of the liberal Al-Dostour party who appeared in front of state prosecutors on Wednesday, his lawyers confirmed. Dawoud, a well-known politician and journalist, is a senior member of a broad coalition of leftist and liberal opposition parties that called on Tuesday for a "national dialogue" with authorities. / AFP / MOHAMED EL-SHAHED
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Egyptian security officials on Wednesday confirmed the arrest of two prominent university professors and a senior politician, as well as seven men accused of inciting unrest or spying on the country’s security forces.

The arrests follow small anti-government protests staged last Friday that were quickly dispersed.

The security officials said political science professors Hassan Nafaa and Hazem Hosny were arrested late on Tuesday for anti-state activities.

Some local television networks and news websites have in recent days aired an audio recording purportedly of Mr Nafaa negotiating a fee in exchange for his appearance in a documentary produced by the Doha-based Al Jazeera. The television network is seen in Egypt as a tool used by Qatar to destabilise the region and support radical Islamist groups.

The officials said authorities on Wednesday arrested prominent politician Khaled Dawoud, spokesman for an opposition alliance of secular and socialist parties and former leader of the opposition Destour party.

Mr Dawoud, another critic of the government, is accused of inciting unrest, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to brief the media.

Of the seven others arrested – an Egyptian, two Jordanians, two Turks, a Palestinian and a Dutchman – all but one were linked to calls for renewed protests by an exiled Egyptian businessman and contractor. They were arrested in “recent days”, the officials said.

The protests staged last Friday in Cairo and several other northern cities were in response to a call made by businessman Mohammed Ali who claims to have worked with the military for more than a decade and who is now living in hiding in Spain.

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi has blamed last Friday’s protests on “political Islam”, a term widely understood to mean the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

The security officials identified the Egyptian among the seven detained men as a Brotherhood operative named Mustafa Ahmed Mustafa who distributed money from the group to youths in return for their participation in the protests planned this Friday.

They identified the Palestinian as Ashraf Tafesh, an intelligence officer from a Gaza-based extremist group, The Jerusalem Brigades, who came to Egypt to spy.

They said the Dutchman flew a drone from his hotel room balcony to film Cairo’s Tahrir square, birthplace of the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak and the site of one of the protests last Friday.

A number of protesters were arrested but authorities have not released a figure. Activists have said hundreds were detained.