Egypt deports activist with death penalty petition
CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian authorities deported an activist who wanted to present a petition opposing the death sentences given to 529 supporters of toppled Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, his international humanitarian organization said Friday.
Wissam Tarif, a Lebanese national who works for Avaaz, an online activism network, arrived in Egypt on Tuesday morning and was deported that evening, Avaaz spokesman Sam Barratt said. Tarif intended to present the petition to Egypt’s top Islamic official, Mufi Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim, on Thursday, Barratt said. Under Egyptian law, the official must approve all death sentences before they can be carried out.
Tarif arrived Thursday at Cairo’s international airport, where officials detained him at passport control because his name was on a watch list, an airport official said. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists.
Barratt said that Tarif had a valid Egyptian visa.
“In Egypt today, peacefully delivering a massive petition to a religious leader is deemed a threat to national security,” Tarif said in a statement. “They tried to silence 1 million voices with my deportation, but our campaign will now intensify.”
A court sentenced the 529 to death on March 24 for an attack on a police station that killed a police officer, convicting them after only two hearings in a mass trial that activists criticized.
Though lawyers say the verdicts are subject to appeal and likely will be overturned, the swift ruling has raised concerns that the country’s courts are becoming politicized in the wake of the July 3 overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi and a subsequent crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood group.
On Friday, security officials said forces dispersed marching Brotherhood supporters in at least two Cairo neighborhoods. In the northern Cairo area of Sharabiya, a security official said local residents clashed with attendees of a funeral march after they began chanting against the army and the police. Youssof Salahen, a spokesman for a student group supporting Morsi, said that security forces fired birdshot and tear gas into the funeral for high school student Hossam Salama, killed by a gunshot wound to the head after clashes at Cairo University earlier this week.
In the farming town of Fayoum southwest of Cairo, Brotherhood protesters clashed with local residents, with both sides throwing gasoline bombs and stones, officials said. In the southern city of Assuit, demonstrators threw rocks at a police vehicle, calling for the release of detainees, officials said.
Security forces arrested 61 protesters around the country Friday, an official said, adding that they confiscated guns, birdshot cartridges and knives.
The military-backed interim government has arrested some 16,000 people in the ongoing crackdown, including most of the Brotherhood’s leadership.
Meanwhile, militant bombings, suicide attacks and other assaults — mostly by an al-Qaida-inspired group called Ansar Beit al-Maqdis — have increased, targeting police and military forces in retaliation for the crackdown. The authorities have blamed the Brotherhood for the violence, branding it a terrorist organization and confiscating its assets. The group has denied any links to the attacks and has denounced the violence.
In North Sinai, gunmen belonging to Ansar Beit al-Maqdis shot and killed a police officer on Thursday, security officials said. The same day, gunmen killed two young men in the village of Mahdiya, accusing them of collaborating with the army, officials said.
All security officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.
Associated Press writer Laura Dean contributed to this report.