World News

Egypt frees members of leading rights group

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian authorities released on Thursday three members of a leading human rights organisation following widespread international criticism, the group said.

Security services detained the three staff members of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), including director Gasser Abdel Razek, after the group gave a briefing to senior diplomats on Nov. 3.

The detentions, on charges including joining a terrorist group and publishing false news, drew public objections from the United Nations and Western governments, and triggered a broad campaign by international rights campaigners.

Abdel Razek along with EIPR criminal justice director Karim Ennarah and administrative manager Mohamed Basheer were released on Thursday evening from Tora prison in southern Cairo, EIPR said.

A security source said earlier that the three would be released pending further investigations. There was no immediate official statement from the prosecution.

Those who voiced concern about the arrests include Antony Blinken, who has been named as U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s secretary of state, and Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson.

Critics saw the arrests as the latest escalation of a crackdown on political dissent and civil society that has gradually tightened under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Sisi has said there are no political prisoners in Egypt, and that stability and security are paramount.

Reporting by Hesham Abdul Khalek and Omar Fahmy; writing by Mahmoud Mourad; Editing by Aidan Lewis and Alexandra Hudson