Egypt orders arrest of 2 top activists over protests

Egypt orders arrest of 2 top activists over protests
Ahmed Maher, founder of the 'April 6' movement

CAIRO - Egypt on Wednesday ordered the arrest of two prominent activists for defying a new law on demonstrations, hours after the authorities dumped a mainly-women group of protesters in the desert.

Egypt's general prosecutor had ordered the arrest of Ahmed Maher, founder of the April 6 movement that spearheaded the 2011 revolt against former president Hosni Mubarak, and Alaa Abdel Fattah, a prominent activist, state news agency MENA said.

The two were to be detained for four days over demonstrations held in Cairo on Tuesday in defiance of a new disputed law that requires organisers to seek prior permission for protests.

"The two are accused of inciting protesters to hold demonstrations that broke the protest law," the prosecution said, according to MENA.

The report added that 24 other protesters who joined Tuesday's demonstration had been ordered detained for four days.

Tuesday's protests were broken up by police using water canons and tear gas, in the first use in Cairo of the greater powers given to them under the new law.

Judiciary and other sources said around 60 protesters were detained, including prominent activist Mona Seif, founder of a campaign against military trials of civilians.

She was held after joining a protest outside the Shura Council, where Egypt's new constitution is being drafted. The protest was aimed specifically at the inclusion of an article in the draft law that allows the military to try civilians in certain cases.

Seif and a group of 15 other women and 12 men were later released in the middle of the night some 10 kilometres (about six miles) south of Cairo on a desert road.

"The ministry of interior alleges that each one of us had been dropped at her house, which means that all of us are living in the desert," Seif wrote on her Twitter account later.

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