Egyptian security forces have arrested the administrators of 47 Facebook pages that the interior ministry says are run by the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, intensifying a crackdown on dissent as the fifth anniversary of a 2011 uprising approaches.
The popular revolt that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule began with marches on Jan. 25, many of which were planned by youth activists on Facebook and other social media platforms.
As the anniversary of that uprising approaches, Egyptian security forces have arrested several activists and shut down cultural spaces to prevent them from gathering, while government-appointed clerics have preached against protests.
“The administrators of these pages were arrested on charges of inciting against state institutions and spreading the ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood as well as calling for marches on the coming Jan. 25,” Interior Ministry spokesman Abu Bakr Abdel Karim said in a telephone interview with an Egyptian talk show late on Wednesday night.
It was not clear how many people managed the 47 pages.
The Muslim Brotherhood emerged as the most popular group in the first parliamentary and presidential elections held after the 2011 uprising.
The world’s oldest Islamist movement was banned and designated a terrorist organization in 2013, after the military ousted President Mohamed Mursi, a Brotherhood official, following mass protests against his rule.
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the military chief behind Mursi’s ouster, was elected president a year later. On his watch, thousands of political critics have been jailed.
Sisi passed an anti-terrorism law in August that includes the death penalty for a dozen of offences and includes punishments for online crimes related to terrorism.
The law has been criticized by human rights groups who accuse Sisi of exploiting security threats to roll back political freedoms won after Mubarak was toppled.
“The ministry of interior will continue to stand against these terrorist pages that have long incited violence against state institutions and made fun of the major incidents experienced by the country recently,” added Abdel Karim.
The Brotherhood and several liberal and left wing groups such as the secular 6 April youth movement have called for protests on the anniversary of the uprising, although not all explicitly call for Sisi’s ouster.[Reuters]