Egypt raids activist's family after U.S. suit against former PM: lawyers

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian security forces raided the homes of two uncles of a prominent activist who recently filed a torture lawsuit in the United States against a former prime minister, lawyers representing the activist said.

FILE PHOTO: Supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi shout anti-army slogans during a protest in Cairo July 9, 2013. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem/File Photo

Egypt’s state press centre, which handles relations with foreign media, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mohamed Soltan, who was arrested in August 2013 and accused of crimes including spreading false information, filed a lawsuit against ex-Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi in the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia on June 1.

The complaint alleges Beblawi conspired to target Soltan because of his high profile role assisting international media covering political demonstrations in Egypt, and that he “directed and monitored (Soltan’s) illegal mistreatment”.

The lawsuit alleges that Soltan, who was released in 2015 and now works as a human rights advocate in Virginia, was tortured to the point of near death during 22 months of imprisonment. It seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Beblawi, prime minister from 2013-14, resides in the United States where he sits on the board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Beblawi did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The court docket did not list any legal representation for Beblawi.

U.S. law firm Lewis Baach Kaufmann Middlemiss said that about 20 officers from Egypt’s National Security Agency raided and ransacked Soltan’s uncles’ homes in Berket el Sabaa city on Monday night, holding them and their families at gunpoint.

They demanded and obtained passwords and security codes to access their digital devices, emails and social media accounts, the firm said in a statement.

“This is a clear attempt at interfering in a U.S. legal proceeding through retaliation, intimidation and harassment,” lawyer Eric Lewis said in the statement.

Soltan, an Egyptian-American rights activist, was arrested in Egypt weeks after Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Mursi was deposed.

Soltan had worked as an interpreter and assistant to Western media in Cairo’s Rabaa Square, where a sit-in to protest Mursi’s ouster was violently dispersed, resulting in hundreds of deaths. His father is a senior Brotherhood figure who remains in prison in Egypt.

“The security raids at the homes of his relatives in Egypt follows a clear pattern of targeting relatives of dissidents abroad,” said Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch, which also documented the raids.

Editing by Daniel Wallis